NIFA Update - April 28, 2021

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Editor: Kelly Sprute                                                                                         April 28, 2021

Making a Difference

Lab worker holding beaker containing plant. Courtesy of Getty Images.

NIFA Invests Over $8.65M for Plant Breeding

NIFA invested over $8.65 million in 22 plant breeding research projects through its Agriculture and Food Research Initiative program. The Plant Breeding for Agricultural Production grants include a co-funded project by the Kansas Wheat Commission through the Farm Bill commodity boards topic provision, as well as five cultivar development projects aimed at accelerating testing, evaluating and releasing publicly-finished wheat, triticale, sorghum, and canola cultivars for farmers.

“Plant breeding is a critical link in helping agriculture mitigate climate change,” said NIFA director Dr. Carrie Castille. “These innovative projects will advance crop production efficiency, healthfulness, product quality, and the value of U.S. agricultural plants while increasing farmer profitability and sustainability.” For more information, read the NIFA press release.

Lab worker holding beaker containing plant. Courtesy of Getty Images.

From the Director

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

Spring is always a busy and exciting time in agriculture. Farmers and ranchers are making plans, turning soil, sewing seeds, surveying greening pastures, and watching calves and chicks grow. Across the nation, colleges and universities are about to graduate the next wave of the agricultural workforce and leaders, while preparing to welcome the next class to campus.

 Even in this most unusual year, the steady rhythm of agriculture reassures and grounds us.

Just like those we serve, NIFA is planning, sewing, growing, and celebrating success. Over the next few weeks, we will hold several webinars and listening sessions to seek your input as we plan for new programs and products, so we can continue to integrate your suggestions into our processes, plans and priorities. You will find details on those in this and future NIFA Update editions.

We continue to aggressively recruit more new leaders to grow NIFA’s workforce and build the NIFA of the future. It’s truly impressive to see the high caliber of scientists and experts who want to join NIFA and serve you.

While we still have a lot of work ahead, we hope you will celebrate with us. As we pass the midpoint in this fiscal year, we have posted almost all of the RFAs for the year and, as of last Friday, nearly 53 percent of the awards are completed. Thank you to all the NIFA employees who have shown tremendous dedication and commitment to quality service, and to you, our stakeholders, for your valuable support.

Let’s keep it growing!

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


USDA graphic symbol

USDA Hosts First-Ever Virtual Fair on Food Waste Reduction Innovations and Leaders

The USDA announced today that it will host the first-ever Food Loss and Waste Innovation Fair on May 26 (12 - 4 p.m. ET), to showcase USDA investments and business leadership in reducing food loss and waste throughout the food system. “In the U.S., more than one-third of all available food goes uneaten through food loss or waste,” said USDA Food Loss and Waste Liaison Jean Buzby. “USDA is proud to highlight public and private leaders who are transforming the food system and combatting food loss and waste.” The Innovation Fair will present businesses and research teams that have received USDA funding to research or commercialize cutting-edge food loss and waste solutions. For more information, read the USDA press release.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack

Agriculture Secretary Highlights USDA's Climate Smart Investments

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack used Earth Day to highlight USDA's efforts aimed at mitigating climate and encouraging conservation. USDA’s Stephanie Ho talks with Secretary Vilsack about the USDA’s goals for climate smart initiatives. For more information, listen to the USDA broadcast.

Food waste image courtesy of Getty Images.

USDA Science Reduces Food Waste

The Economic Research Service estimates that in 2010, America wasted approximately 133 billion pounds of food. That’s the equivalent of every American discarding three average-sized apples every day. Not the “apple a day” advice we’re used to hearing. On Stop Food Waste Day, we’re sharing five examples of how USDA is using scientific ingenuity to curb food loss and waste. For more information, read the USDA blog.

Food waste image courtesy of Getty Images.

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

News for You

Down on the Farm graphic image.

New "Down on the Farm" Workshop Kit

Stress factors are high in agriculture. Farmers and ranchers face financial problems, price and marketing uncertainties, farm transfer issues, production challenges, family tension, and more. "Down on the Farm: Supporting Farmers in Stressful Times" is a 3-hour workshop that teaches people who live and work in agricultural communities how to recognize and respond when they suspect a farmer or farm family member might need help. It can be offered in-person or online. These materials were developed by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and the AgCentric Northern Center of Agricultural Excellence at Central Lakes College, with input from other partners, and financial support from North Central Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education. Go online for more information or to download the kit.

Scouting crop fields on a regular basis can help to determine emerging crop problems. Image courtesy of Brandon Kleinke.

Coming Soon: Midwest Virtual Crop Scout School

The 2021 Virtual Crop Scout School is now available and free to the public. This regional scout school, courtesy of the Crop Protection Network, consists of 22 webinars from crop protection specialists at eleven Midwest Universities. Crop scouts, farmers, and other users can pick and choose from a variety of diverse subjects to help them become more knowledgeable on crop scouting. Crop scouting in an important part of integrated pest management (IPM) that can help farmers obtain higher yields and increased profit per acre. This work is supported by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Crop Protection and Pest Management Program through the North Central IPM Center. For more information, read the University of Minnesota article.

Scouting crop fields on a regular basis can help to determine emerging crop problems. Image courtesy of Brandon Kleinke.

Professor Young Ho Park. Photo courtesy of NMSU’s Vladimir Avina.

Partnership Aims to Develop Smart-Farming Workforce

The New Mexico State University’s (NMSU) College of Engineering and College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences along with Doña Ana Community College have formed a partnership to prepare the next-generation workforce to use innovative smart farming skills including cutting-edge technology and big data analytics to improve food security and agricultural industries. Training of Next Generation Workforce for Smart Food Science and Agricultural Technology in the Digital Era received $500,000 in funding from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. For more information, read the NMSU article.

Professor Young Ho Park is leading a collaborative to improve food security by using innovative smart farming skills. Photo courtesy of NMSU’s Vladimir Avina.

Black soldier fly larvae image courtesy of Getty Images.

Fly Larvae Studied as Potentially Novel Livestock Feed

USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture has awarded Texas State University Department of Agricultural Sciences Assistant Professor Merritt Drewery a grant to study insects as a potential alternative, environmentally sustainable feed source for beef cattle. The $200,000 Agricultural and Food Research Initiative grant will support Drewery’s project, “Black Soldier Fly Larvae (BSFL) as a protein source for cattle consuming forage.” Drewery’s research has identified BSFL as a potential high-protein replacement for conventional livestock feeds. BSFL has high feed efficiency and can be grown on food and feed byproducts that would otherwise have an economic and environmental cost for disposal. For more information, Read the Texas State University article.

Black soldier fly larvae image courtesy of Getty Images.

NIFA Webinars

Webinar graphic courtesy of Adobe Stock.

New AFRI Program Priority Area, “Extension, Education, and USDA Climate Hubs Partnership”

Join us for an introductory webinar and Q&A session with national program leaders on May 13 from 2-3 p.m. Central Time. This program area supports projects that provide effective, translatable, and scalable approaches to address climate change through regional partnerships including USDA Climate Hubs and Extension. Register now to reserve your spot. Extension and Integrated Extension/Education proposals will be accepted and funded up to $1,500,000 per project for 3-5 years. Deadline to apply Dec. 15, 2021. More information is available on page 71 of the FY21 AFRI RFA, and you can submit questions not answered during the webinar to the AFRI Coordination Team.

Award Announcements

NIFA Invests in Social Implications of Agricultural Technologies

NIFA recently announced a Social Implications of Agricultural Technologies award to advance research on public engagement and the implications of gene drive and other gene editing technologies. The research investment comes from NIFA’s Agriculture Economics and Rural Communities (AERC) program area. AERC supports rigorous social science projects, behavioral and experimental economics research, and analysis that inform decision-making and policy design to enhance the sustainability of U.S. agricultural production systems to improve the quality of life and alleviate poverty. This grant is part of NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.

Tweet of the Week

NIFA tweet-A research team created an internet-based monitoring and modeling system to help growers monitor and anticipate pest problems.