NIFA Update - April 21, 2021

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Editor: Kelly Sprute                                                                                        April 21, 2021

Making a Difference

Greens-type Poa annua surrounded by creeping bentgrass. Image courtesy of Penn State’s Dave Huff.

Greens-type Poa annua surrounded by creeping bentgrass (notice how the bentgrass grows so much taller than the greens-type Poa). Image courtesy of Penn State’s Dave Huff.

Golf Course Turfgrass Species 'Remembers' if it was Mowed, Develops Differently   

Poa annua, or annual bluegrass, a turfgrass species commonly found on golf course putting greens around the world, possesses transgenerational memory, “remembering” whether its parent was mowed or not mowed, according to a new study by Penn State researchers.

The discovery solves a two-decades-old mystery that has vexed Penn State Professor of Turfgrass Breeding and Genetics David Huff, whose research trials are aimed at breeding Poa annua to produce seed for golf greens.

“We believe that such transgenerational memory would be further entrenched or relaxed across additional generations of continued or relaxed mowing stress,” said Chris Benson, who spearheaded the research. “We think we can use this knowledge to overcome the genetics and produce stable cultivars.” This work was supported by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. For more information, read the Penn State News article.


Policy guide graphic courtesy of Getty Images.

Updated NIFA Policy Guide Ready for Review

The updated NIFA Policy Guide is now available for your review. We’ve made changes to align with regulations in 2 CFR 200 and the current NIFA Terms and Conditions. The Policy Guide is now in an updated format for easier use and reference.

The Policy Guide provides comprehensive guidance on:

  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Application and review processes
  • Award notification and administration procedures
  • Award terms and conditions
  • Uniform administrative requirements
  • Allowable costs
  • Reporting requirements
  • Close-out procedures
  • Audit requirements

To help you navigate the updated guide, we will offer a webinar to walk through the guide on May 5 at 4 p.m. ET / 3 p.m. CT. Stakeholders will have until May 24 to offer input into the next round of updates on any further improvements needed to make the guide the best tool it can be for you. Register for the May 5 webinar online.

Policy guide graphic courtesy of Getty Images.

Save the date graphic courtesy of Getty Images.

NIFA Farm of the Future Virtual Stakeholder Listening Session

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) seeks input to establish a new Farm of the Future competitive grant program. Section 799 of the FY2021 Omnibus Appropriations Bill provided $4 million to NIFA “for a competitive grant to an institution in the land-grant university system to establish a Farm of the Future testbed and demonstration site.” NIFA plans to implement this program by supporting an integrated research and extension project.

As a stakeholder, customer, or partner, you are invited to contribute your expert opinion on how Federal investments can best address current needs and challenges facing farms of the future.  Ultimately, this information will guide development of a Request for Applications. 

Input may be submitted by:

  • Participating in a virtual stakeholder listening session on Thursday, May 6 from 2 to 4 p.m. (CT). Each participant may speak for up to 3 minutes. Register in advance to attend this virtual listening session online.
  • Submitting written comments (2-page limit) to: by May 6, 2021.

NIFA plans to open a website to collect stakeholder input on May 1, 2021. Please plan to provide input to guide development of the new NIFA Farm of the Future competitive grant program as described above. Questions may be directed to

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:

Social Science Specialist (National Program Leader) (GS 13-14)
Closing Date: 05/03/2021

Budget Analyst (GS 9-12)
Closing Date: 05/04/2021

USDA Messages

Aerial farmland image, courtesy of Getty Images.

USDA Invests $21.7M in Research Innovations to Improve Soil Health and Climate Smart Agriculture and Forestry

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) will invest at least $21.7 million in several key programs to help agricultural producers manage the impacts of climate change on their lands and production. NIFA awarded $6.3 million for 14 Soil Health grants and $5.4 million for seven Signals in the Soil grants through its Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). NIFA also is investing at least $10 million this year in a new AFRI program area priority called, “Extension, Education, and USDA Climate Hub Partnerships,” to train the next generation of agriculturalists and foresters to incorporate climate change research into their management practices.

“USDA is committed to working alongside American producers, rural businesses and landowners to help them lead the way on addressing climate change, using the best USDA data and science to help improve their practices and spur new market opportunities,” said Vilsack. For more information, read the USDA press release.

Aerial image courtesy of Getty Images. 

USDA graphic symbol

One Earth Day Focus for USDA is Reducing Food Loss and Waste

USDA is encouraging all Americans to reduce food loss and waste, as part of activities aimed at marking Earth Day. USDA’s Stephanie Ho talks with USDA’s Food Loss and Waste Liaison Jean Buzby about what you can do to reduce your food loss at home. For more information, listen to the USDA broadcast.

News for You

Professor Hans Coetzee, left, and doctoral student Andrew Curtis. Image courtesy of Kansas State University.

Study Finds Reduction in Milk Production Among Anaplasmosis-Infected Cattle 

New data published by Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine researchers has found that bovine anaplasmosis, a common livestock disease, is linked to significant losses in milk production among dairy cows. In the publication, researchers propose preventing losses related to this disease through careful herd monitoring and effective risk management, such as routinely quarantining newly purchased animals. Authors of this study received funding through USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. For more information, read the K-State news article.

Professor Hans Coetzee, left, and doctoral student Andrew Curtis, work with a cohort of calves for testing an implantable vaccine. Image courtesy of Kansas State University.

(Right) Sweet potato-enriched bread. Image courtesy of SD State.

Sweet Potatoes Increase Vitamin A, Fiber in Bread  

Incorporating sweet potato puree into bread not only adds vitamin A, but also changes the starch composition by increasing the fiber content. Altering the starch composition means a greater portion of the carbohydrates will take longer to digest, so consuming a serving of bread is less likely to cause an increase in blood sugar that can be beneficial for diabetics, according to South Dakota State University Assistant Professor Srinivas Janaswamy of the Department of Dairy and Food Science. In addition, the increased amount of fiber can help improve gut health. This research was funded by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture through the South Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station. For more information, read the News@SD State article.

(Right) Sweet potato-enriched bread. Image courtesy of SD State.

Funding Opportunity

Military REACH

U.S. Army soldier and daughter. Image courtesy of Getty Images.

Military REACH is a partnership funded by the Department of Defense between the DoD’s Office of Military Community and Family Policy and the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture through a grant/cooperative agreement with Auburn University. The purpose of Military REACH is to bridge the gap between military family research and practice, to make research accessible and practical. The program strives to put research into the hands of military families, direct service helping professionals, and those who work on behalf of military families by harnessing collaborative expertise, maximizing technological advances, and actively disseminating products. More information is available online. View RFA and apply for grant. Deadline is May 19, 2021.

 Agriculture and Food Research Initiative - Foundational and Applied Science Program

The Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) - Foundational and Applied Science Program supports grants in six AFRI priority areas to advance knowledge in both fundamental and applied sciences important to agriculture. The six priority areas are:

  • Plant Health and Production and Plant Products
  • Animal Health and Production and Animal Products
  • Food Safety, Nutrition, and Health
  • Bioenergy, Natural Resources, and Environment
  • Agriculture Systems and Technology
  • Agriculture Economics and Rural Communities

Research-only, extension-only, and integrated research, education and/or extension projects are solicited in this Request for Applications. For more information, read the NIFA funding opportunity.

Tweet of the Week

Through NIFA funding, UNH researchers have found rotating crops over time increases the yield of corn. Check out their findings.