NIFA Update - Jan. 27, 2021

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Editor: Kelly Sprute                                                                                   January 27, 2021

Making a Difference

No-till agricultural practices in vulnerable areas can significantly reduce soil erosion. Image courtesy of the University of Illinois.

No-till practices in vulnerable areas can significantly reduce soil erosion. Image courtesy of the University of Illinois.

No-Till Practices in Vulnerable Areas Significantly Reduce Soil Erosion

Soil erosion is a major challenge in agricultural production. It affects soil quality and carries nutrient sediments that pollute waterways. While soil erosion is a naturally occurring process, agricultural activities such as conventional tilling exacerbate it.

Farmers implementing no-till practices can significantly reduce soil erosion rates, a new University of Illinois study shows. Completely shifting to no-till would reduce soil loss and sediment yield by more than 70 percent, says Sanghyun Lee, doctoral student in the University of Illinois’s Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering.

“A comprehensive modeling framework to evaluate soil erosion by water and tillage" is published in Journal of Environmental Management. USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture provided funding. For more information, read the University of Illinois article.

From the Director

NIFA Director, Carrie Castille

Dr. Carrie Castille
Director, National Institute of Food and Agriculture

As I read the announcement of my appointment as NIFA Director, I learned that I am the first woman to hold this position in a non-acting capacity. Being first presents a tremendous opportunity but comes with awesome responsibility; both of which I embrace and welcome.

Being first sets the tone for all others who follow or may determine if any others follow. On Inauguration Day, America realized many firsts. Firsts often bring new ideas, fresh approaches and changes to culture and mindsets needed for growth and advancement.

Growing up in a small town in Louisiana, where my parents owned a local business, I learned the value of hard work and that it takes contributions from each of us to build success. I learned firsthand the importance of maintaining and preserving a strong sense of community and pride. I’m proud to work for an organization that promotes programs that ultimately create strong communities and a resilient society. I want to see NIFA create that same sense of community pride within the agency and among our community of stakeholders and partners.

Serving in various roles across NIFA’s stakeholder base throughout my career allowed me to experience the wide impact we have and the difference we can make together. I have been a student, a faculty member, a customer, and an advocate for land-grant universities throughout my career. I am also an alumni of a non-land-grant public university and fully understand their vital role in contributing to the body of science and preparing the much-needed workforce for the agriculture industry.

Those experiences will be my guide in this job – providing a constant reminder of all the people we serve and what they need from us.

Over the past year, with solid support from stakeholders, NIFA forged a clear path forward through Project Café. This effort gives NIFA purposeful momentum and focus to strengthen NIFA operations so we can support the ambitious, aggressive science agenda we must take on together in coming months. Thank you for your strong support of NIFA to fund sound science, service, and education that benefit agriculture and communities across the nation. I welcome the responsibility and the opportunity to continue working closely with you to foster the plan we’ve created and to produce results that deliver the discoveries and innovations needed for the common good of the nation.


Cover image of the Guide to Building Sustainable Farms, Ranches, and Communities

Updated Guide to Building Sustainable Farms, Ranches, and Communities

It can be difficult for farmers and ranchers to navigate the wide range of USDA resources and stay up to date with program changes after each Farm Bill. Thanks to the newly updated Building Sustainable Farms, Ranches, and Communities, producers, researchers, nonprofits, and landowners can easily find USDA programs that can help them achieve their goals. For more information, download your free copy of Building Sustainable Farms, Ranches, and Communities.

USDA News radio graphic

USDA in Partnership with NASA

USDA brings ground-based knowledge to its partnership with NASA. USDA’s Stephanie Ho talks with Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Administrator Chavonda Jacobs-Young, ARS research hydrologist Mike Cosh, and NASA program manager Bradley Doorn as they discuss how both agencies are bringing essential skills to the table that complement each other. For more information, listen to the USDA broadcast.

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:

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


Webinar graphic courtesy of Adobe Stock.

NIFA’s Competitive Research or Extension Grants: Small and Mid-sized Institutions

Thinking about applying to NIFA's competitive research or extension grant programs? Then sign-up for this webinar aimed to encourage applications to NIFA’s competitive research and extension programs from small and mid-sized institutions on February 9 from 2 to 3:30 (ET). NIFA staff will give an overview of competitive research and extension programs and upcoming Request for Application deadlines for FY2021 followed by a panel of recent award recipients. Awardees will share their experiences choosing a NIFA program, crafting and submitting their applications, and managing their award. There will be plenty of opportunity for engaging conversation.  Go online to register for the Competitive Research or Extension Grants webinar.

Webinar graphic courtesy of Adobe Stock.

News for You

University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff graphic logo

Small Farm Program Awarded Grant to Train Beginning Farmers, Ranchers

The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff’s (UAPB) Small Farm Program has been awarded a $600,000 Beginning Farmer and Rancher Grant from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The grant runs for three years and targets socially disadvantaged and limited-resource farmers in 20 counties who have been underserved because of such barriers as limited access to credit, lack of knowledge of land acquisition and transition, limited access to existing and viable markets, and lack of skills in financial planning and production. In Arkansas, an average limited-resource farmer had gross farm sales for 2018 and 2019 of less than $180,300 per year, with an adjusted gross income of less than $26,200. For more information, read the UAPB news article.

4-H HBCU Virtual College Fair graphic courtesy of Prairie View A&M University.

4-H Hosts HBCU Virtual College Fair

On January 25 the Dallas County 4-H, in partnership with the Metropolitan Dallas Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., recently hosted a Virtual College Fair in hopes to ignite the passion for attending, supporting, and advocating for Historically Black Colleges and Universities. In addition to Prairie View A&M University, there were five others represented: Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University, Langston University, Paul Quinn College, Southern University, and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. For more information, read the Prairie View A&M University article.

4-H HBCU Virtual College Fair graphic courtesy of Prairie View A&M University.

Award Announcements

NIFA Invests $4.7 Million for Pollinator Health Research

NIFA recently awarded 11 Pollinator Health Research grants for research to sustain healthy populations of pollinators, which are crucial to the nation’s food security and environmental health. Pollinator health projects address the current problem of declining populations of managed and wild pollinators, such as bees, wasps, flies, butterflies, moths, beetles and bats. Pollinators play a vital role in the production of healthy crops for food, fiber, and other agricultural uses. These grants are a part of NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative program.

Tweet of the Week

Research ecologist Steven Mirsky co-leads a Coordinated Ag Research Project that documents cover crop use, management & breeding.