NIFA Update - Jan. 13, 2021

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Editor: Kelly Sprute                                                                                    January 13, 2021

Making a Difference

Bee image courtesy of the USGS Bee inventory and monitoring lab.

Bee image courtesy of the USGS Bee inventory and monitoring lab.

Climate Change Reduces the Abundance and Diversity of Wild Bees

Wild bees are more affected by climate change than by disturbances to their habitats, according to a team of researchers led by Penn State University. The findings suggest that addressing land-use issues alone will not be sufficient to protect these important pollinators.

“Our study found that the most critical factor influencing wild bee abundance and species diversity was the weather, particularly temperature and precipitation,” said Christina Grozinger, Distinguished Professor of Entomology and Director of the Center for Pollinator Research, Penn State.

According to Melanie Kammerer, graduate student in Entomology, Penn State, few studies have considered the effects of both climate and land use on wild bees. “We found that temperature and precipitation patterns are very important drivers of wild bee communities in our study, more important than the amount of suitable habitat or floral and nesting resources in the landscape,” said Kammerer. For more information, read the Penn State article.

The USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture helped to support this research.


Dr. William Hoffman

NIFA’s Newest National Science Liaison

Dr. William Hoffman has accepted the position of National Science Liaison (NSL) to strengthen the social sciences and Extension expertise among the NSL team. His appointment began January 3, 2021. Bill has served as Chief of Staff since December 2013. His extensive experience in working with various stakeholder communities will be a great asset to the success of the NSL team in strategically formulating and implementing DC-centric interactions. He will continue to be located in Washington, D.C.

Bill came to the agency in 2002 and has served as a Program Specialist, National Program Leader, and Program and Analysis Officer. Prior to joining NIFA, he worked for five years with Penn State Cooperative Extension, and before that he worked for five years with two large agricultural corporations. Bill earned his Doctor of Education degree in Higher Education Administration from George Washington University in 2009. He holds a Master of Education degree in Instructional Systems (2003) and a Master of Business Administration degree (1992), both from Penn State. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology from Penn State in 1989.

USDA graphic symbol

USDA Releases Agriculture Innovation Research Strategy Summary and Dashboard

The USDA recently released its U.S. Agriculture Innovation Strategy Directional Vision for Research (PDF, 4.8 MB) summary and dashboard that will help to guide future research decisions within USDA. The strategy synthesizes the information USDA collected as part of a public announcement earlier this year engaging the public on research priorities under the Agriculture Innovation Agenda (AIA). “This initial report is a culmination of creative minds from across the agricultural community,” said Deputy Under Secretary Scott Hutchins, who leads USDA’s Research, Education, and Economics mission area, and who is responsible for research efforts under the AIA. For more information, read the USDA press release.

USDA Ag Outlook Forum 2021 graphic

USDA Announces Details of the 2021 Agricultural Outlook Forum Program

The USDA recently announces details of the 97th annual Agricultural Outlook Forum, which will be held virtually on February 18-19, 2021. The 2021 Forum, themed “Building on Innovation: A Pathway to Resilience,” will focus on the central role science and innovation have played in helping the agricultural sector overcome challenges and build resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information, read the USDA press release.

NIFA flower identifier

NIFA Career Opportunities

We are hiring! Remember to check out NIFA's Career Opportunities webpage, where there is a direct link to all open positions. You can also explore NIFA jobs at the website. Current openings in Kansas City, Missouri:

Equal Opportunity Specialist, (GS 13)
Closing Date: 01/14/2021

Supervisory Biological Science Specialist, (GS 15)
Closing Date: 02/08/2021


Webinar graphic courtesy of Adobe Stock.

FY 2021 Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program

NIFA will host a webinar for interested applicants to the FY2021 Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP), January 26, from 12:30 to 2 p.m. (ET).  This webinar will provide an overview of the program’s grant types and project types, cost sharing or matching requirements, relevant SNAP regulations, and GusNIP core metrics. Please register in advance for this webinar online. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar. For more information, read the GusNIP webinar.

Webinar graphic courtesy of Adobe Stock Images.

News for You

The study found that artificial sweeteners do not cause health issues or lead to diabetes in healthy adults. Image courtesy of OSU.

High Doses of Saccharin Don't Lead to Diabetes in Healthy Adults  

 For those trying to live a healthy lifestyle, the choice between sugar and artificial sweeteners such as saccharin can be confusing. A new study led by researchers at Ohio State University (OSU) Wexner Medical Center and OSU College of Medicine found saccharin doesn't lead to development of diabetes in healthy adults as previous studies have suggested. "It's not that the findings of previous studies are wrong, they just didn't adequately control for underlying health conditions, diet choices ,and lifestyle habits," said OSU Assistant Professor George Kyriazis. This study was supported in part by USDA-NIFA. For more information, read the OSU article.

The study found that artificial sweeteners do not cause health issues or lead to diabetes in healthy adults. Image courtesy of OSU.

Avocado photo courtesy of Getty Images.

An Avocado a Day Keeps Your Gut Microbes Happy

Eating avocado as part of a daily diet may help improve gut health by increasing the abundance and diversity of microbes in the human gut, according to recent research from the University of Illinois. Funding for the research was provided by the Haas Avocado Board and USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. “We can’t break down dietary fibers, but certain gut microbes can. When we consume dietary fiber, it’s a win-win for gut microbes and for us,” said Hannah Holscher, assistant professor of nutrition in the Dept. of Food Science and Human Nutrition at U of I and senior author of the study. “The purpose of this study was to explore the effects of avocado consumption on the gastrointestinal microbiota,” said Holscher. For more information, read the University of Illinois ACE’s article.

Avocado photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Award Announcements

NIFA Invests $7.5 Million to Protect our Nation’s Food Supply

NIFA recently awarded 19 Food Safety and Defense grants to develop tools to detect allergens, infections or other contaminants in foods. NIFA support enables scientists to develop new and innovative technologies for food processing, manufacturing, and packaging that ensure a safe and abundant food supply. These grants are part of NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.

NIFA Invests $6.5 Million for Research on Pests and Beneficial Species in Agriculture

NIFA recently awarded 15 grants for pests and beneficial species research to help manage pests and beneficial species that affect agricultural crops. NIFA investments help to develop better strategies to foster beneficial insects and microbes that have potential to combat pests. Funded grants support research to promote beneficial organisms associated with pests, as well as to better understand the fundamental mechanisms that inform interactions between plants, pests, or beneficial species. This research will lead to innovative, environmentally-sound strategies to manage agricultural pests and beneficial species. These grants are a part of NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.

NIFA Invests $6.1 Million to Improve Water Quantity and Quality Agricultural Irrigation Systems

NIFA recently announced 13 grant awards in the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) - Water Quantity and Quality priority area. AFRI provides funding for fundamental and applied research, education, and extension projects in the food and agricultural sciences. The goal of the Water Quantity and Quality program is to invest in nontraditional water irrigation systems to improve irrigation practices for crops and livestock through research and extension projects for a more sustainable U.S. water agricultural ecosystem. These awards will reduce the freshwater demand for irrigation by substituting for nontraditional water sources and improve nutrient management for crop production while reducing nutrient load to surface and/or groundwater.

NIFA Invests $5.5 Million in Agricultural Production Systems Research

NIFA recently announced 12 Agricultural Production Systems Research grants that will lead to the development of innovative sustainable solutions to problems limiting or threatening the productivity, efficiency, and profitability of agricultural production systems. The research will help address critical or process-limiting dynamics that occur among and within the various management components of these systems. These grants are a part of NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.

NIFA Invests $5.5 Million in Plant Physiology Research

NIFA recently announced 15 Plant Physiology Research awards that advance research to improve plant production, which is critical to the sustainability and competitiveness of United States agriculture. The genetic basis of important traits identified through these studies are expected to translate into plant varieties with improved yield or product quality, or increased resilience to adverse environmental conditions. The awards support research in plant growth and developmental processes, mechanisms of plant response to abiotic stresses, and nutrient uptake, assimilation, and/or utilization. These grants are a part of NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.

NIFA Invests $4.8 in Plant Products Research

NIFA awarded 11 grants to study the synthesis of plant-derived products. Results could lead to the development of plant products that may be used in foods, pharmaceuticals, and other commercial products. Plant product research creates future markets and helps meet long-term demand for agriculturally based products. These awards focus on nutrients that are beneficial to human health; plant metabolites that improve the quality of food and/or feed; or plant-based chemicals that have industrial and/or pharmaceutical relevance. These grants are a part of NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.

NIFA Invests $4.1 Million for Research in Tools and Resources for Animal Breeding, Genetics, and Genomics Research

NIFA recently awarded 10 animal breeding, genetics, and genomics grants to improve the quality of genome sequences, characterization of genes along with their function and control, and analytics for animal selection and breeding. Awards include two projects to improve the collection of traits at the farm level, and application of genome editing in agricultural animal species. These projects will lead to higher efficiency of agricultural animals through precision breeding that will improve productivity and profit. These grants are part of NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.

NIFA Invests $3.8 Million in Research in Environmental and Natural Resource Economics

NIFA announced ten Environmental and Natural Resource Economics awards that will strengthen our stewardship of private lands by improving our understanding of the relationship between agricultural activities, natural resources, and the environment. These grants are part of NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative. 

Funding Opportunity

What's new?, graphic courtesy of Getty Images.


The RFAs for Crop Protection and Pest Management program (CPPM), Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI), and Emergency Citrus Disease Research and Extension Program (ECDRE) are being updated this week in response to provisions in the FY2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act. Under CPPM, we clarified that indirect costs will not be allowed in the Extension Implementation Program Area. 

For SCRI and ECDRE, NIFA has provided a blanket waiver for match in FY 2021. For these two programs, no matching funds will be required of FY 2021 applicants or awardees, and applicants will not need to submit a waiver request with their application.

What's new?, graphic courtesy of Getty Images.

Renewable Resources Extension Act-National Focus Fund Projects (RREA-NFF)

The RREA-NFF program provides funds for pilot projects that address emerging forest and rangeland resource issues, have national or regional relevancy, or develop new and innovative projects that can be replicated at other institutions. For more information, read the full RREA-NFF funding opportunity.

Small Business Innovation Research Phase II (SBIR)

The SBIR program offers competitively awarded grants to qualified small businesses to support high-quality research addressing important scientific problems and opportunities in agriculture that could lead to significant public benefits. All Phase II projects must have previously completed a successful USDA Phase I project before applying for a Phase II grant. For more information, read the full SBIR Phase II funding opportunity.

Potato Breeding Research 

The Potato Breeding Research program supports research programs focused on varietal development and testing, and potato (Solanum tuberosum L.) varieties for commercial production. For more information, read the full Potato Breeding Research funding opportunity.

New Beginning for Tribal Students (NBTS)

The NBTS program makes competitive grants to land-grant colleges and universities to provide identifiable support specifically targeted for Tribal students. For more information, read the full NBTS funding opportunity.

Supplemental and Alternative Crops (SAC) 

The SAC program supports projects that lead to expanded adaptation and increased acres in the U.S. of canola grown for oil and industrial hemp grown for value-added products and wider use in production systems. For more information, read the full SAC funding opportunity.

Organic Transitions (ORG)

The ORG program supports development and implementation of research, extension and higher education projects that improve the competitiveness of organic livestock and crop producers, as well as those who are adopting organic practices. For more information, read the full ORG funding opportunity.

Higher Education Multicultural Scholars Program (MSP)

The MSP program provides scholarships to support recruiting, engaging, retaining, mentoring, and training committed multicultural scholars, resulting in either baccalaureate degrees within the food, agricultural, natural resource, and human sciences disciplines or Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degrees. For more information, read the full MSP funding opportunity.

Tweet of the Week

NIFA Tweet - Newly released web book, “Crop Scouting Basics for Corn and Soybean” , is available for free.