NIFA Update - March 16, 2022

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Editor: Lori Tyler Gula, PhD                                                                             March 16, 2022

Making a Difference

Nancy McElwain and Xiaomei Li

How Toddler-Mother Attachment Impacts Adolescent Brain and Behavior

Interpersonal trust is a crucial component of healthy relationships. When we interact with strangers, we quickly gauge whether we can trust them. And those important social skills may be shaped by our earliest relationship with caregivers. Adolescents who had an insecure attachment to their mothers as toddlers are more likely to overestimate the trustworthiness of strangers, according to a new study from the University of Illinois that was supported by NIFA.

Nancy McElwain (left) and Xiaomei Li, Department of Human Development and Family Studies, looked at how toddler-mother attachment impacted adolescents’ ability to gauge trustworthiness in strangers. Credit: Kexin Hu/ University of Illinois

Researcher Spotlight

Dr. Tara Wade

Dr. Tara Wade is an assistant professor of food and resource economics at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Southwest Florida Research and Education Center. As a natural resource economist for the UF/IFAS, she helps growers reach their economic and conservation goals in efficient ways.

News From NIFA

NIFA Seeks Hall of Fame and Partnership Award Nominees

NIFA Seeks Hall of Fame and Partnership Award Nominees

Inductees into the NIFA Hall of Fame have worked, coordinated or supported activities exemplifying NIFA’s excellence in any combination of research, education and Extension approaches on local, regional, national or international levels. Inductees have also demonstrated a measurable and positive impact on the lives of citizens and NIFA's mission to invest in and advance agricultural research, education and Extension to solve societal challenges. Nominations will be evaluated based on three weighted areas: measurable impact on NIFA; synergy of research, education and/or Extension; and endorsements/letters of support. Nominations must consist of a completed nomination form and up to three endorsements/letters of support. To learn more, visit the NIFA Hall of Fame Awards website.

NIFA also invites Land-grant Universities, cooperating institutions and organizations supported by NIFA to submit nominations for the 2022 NIFA Partnership Awards Program. Nominations can be submitted for individuals or teams of up to 20 members. Complete details, instructions and the form are found on the NIFA Partnership Award webpage.

Winning nominations will be recognized at the NIFA Day of Appreciation in either June or July. Nominations must be e-mailed to Kelly (Michael) Sprute at no later than April 1. Please include "Award Nomination Submission" in the email subject line.

What is Pi Day?

Celebrating National Pi Day

What is Pi Day? Every March 14, mathematicians, scientists and math lovers around the world celebrate Pi Day, a commemoration of the mathematical sign pi. Did you know, in 1970, women made up 38% of the U.S. workforce and only 8% of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professionals? By 2019, women in STEM had increased to 27%, with women accounting for 48% of the U.S. workforce, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In celebration of National Pi Day, learn about Extension programs supported by NIFA that benefit youth pursuing interests in STEM.

National Pi Day graphic, courtesy of NIFA.

Protecting Pigs

Protecting Pigs in the U.S.

With support from NIFA, researchers across the nation are hard at work developing surveillance, treatment and prevention methods for a devastating, highly infectious animal disease that, if found in the U.S., threatens our multibillion-dollar pork industry. While African Swine Fever, or ASF, poses no threat to human health, its impact on U.S. pig populations — and the domestic and foreign markets that depend on them — would be severe. Preliminary estimates suggest that losses to the pork industry can be as high as $50 billion if we are unable to contain and eliminate ASF in a 10-year scenario.

Protecting Pigs in the U.S. graphic, courtesy of NIFA

Today's Mom

Expanding Food and Nutrition Education

NIFA’s Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) has been at the forefront of nutrition education efforts for over 50 years. EFNEP educators at Auburn University developed the Today’s Mom program to provide nutrition education to limited-resource moms-to-be, including healthy food prep, food safety, menu planning and physical activity.


Today's Mom graphic, courtesy of NIFA.

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NIFA Career Opportunities

We are hiring! NIFA recruits a diverse group of talented, creative, motivated professionals who are invested in shaping the future of food and agricultural science. We offer a variety of benefits and services to our employees that focus on work-life balance, career enhancement, and health and well-being.

NIFA has career opportunities in a variety of scientific disciplines covering engineering, food science, forestry, education, animal and crop sciences, and many other agriculture-related disciplines. NIFA job openings are listed on Current NIFA job openings are for Kansas City, Missouri, or a location negotiable after selection, unless otherwise noted below.

Senior Policy Advisor (Legislative and Policy Officer) (GS-15) (This position will be located in the DC metro area.) Closing Date: March 17 or when we have received 100 applications. View the job announcement.

Equal Opportunity Specialist (GS 11-12) (two vacancies) Closing Date: March 18. View the job announcement.

Grants Management Specialist (GS 9-12) Closing Date: March 24 or when we have received 150 applications. View the job announcement.

Social Science Specialist (National Program Leader) (GS 13-14) Closing Date: March 30 or when we have received 200 applications. View the job announcement.

Biological Science Specialist (National Program Leader) (GS 13-14) Closing Date: March 30 or when we have received 200 applications. View the job announcement.


News From USDA

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USDA Announces Plans for $250 Million Investment to Support Innovative American-made Fertilizer to Give U.S. Farmers More Choices in the Marketplace

USDA has announced it will support additional fertilizer production for American farmers to address rising costs and spur competition. USDA will make available $250 million through a new grant program this summer to support independent, innovative and sustainable American fertilizer production to supply American farmers. Additionally, to address growing competition concerns in the agricultural supply chain, USDA will launch a public inquiry seeking information regarding seeds and agricultural inputs, fertilizer and retail markets.

NIFA-Funded Successes

Trenton Franz

Husker Researchers
Develop Tool to Make Irrigation More Efficient

Agriculture’s future in Nebraska and globally will depend in great part on efficient water use. New NIFA-supported research from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln points to an innovative irrigation approach that offers promise to decrease water use while increasing producer profitability. Achieving greater water efficiency has growing importance in the face of global climate challenges.

A research paper by Trenton Franz, associate professor of hydrogeophysics at Nebraska, and co-authors points to an innovative irrigation approach that could decrease water use while increasing producer profitability. Credit: Craig Chandler/University of Nebraska

Neelendra Joshi

Researchers Investigate Health Impacts of Residual Pesticides on Wild Bees

Farmers know not to apply pesticides on their fields during flowering season when bees are present. But wild bees can come into contact with pesticide residues, in some cases, for months after spraying. With support from NIFA, the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station is investigating the health impacts of residual pesticides on wild bees.

Neelendra Joshi, associate professor of entomology, shows the larger female orchard bee, left, and the smaller male, with longer antennae and light "mustache." They are used in his research on the effects of pesticides on the health and performance of wild, solitary bees. Credit: Fred Miller/U of A System Division of Agriculture

Fertilizing the Garden on a Budget

Fertilizing the Garden
on a Budget

Fertilizer prices spiked in U.S. markets in late 2021. Now, as we are getting ready for spring planting, the price of fertilizer continues to skyrocket. Farmers and even home gardeners are feeling the pinch and looking for alternative ways to provide nutrients for their gardens. The LSU AgCenter, which is supported by NIFA, has some recommendations for organic and do-it-yourself fertilizers.

Coffee grounds and eggshells are excellent kitchen scraps to compost for use in the garden. Credit: Heather Kirk-Ballard/LSU AgCenter

Upcoming Webinars

Application Deadlines

Webinar graphic, courtesy of Adobe Stock.

March 17: USDA Actions on Nutrition Security (Facebook Live) Join U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Vilsack at Teachers College, Columbia University where he will deliver an address about USDA Actions on Nutrition Security.

March 22: Conversation with Hispanic-Serving Institutions The Hispanic Serving Institutions Education Grants (HSI) program will hold a meeting for stakeholders to meet with program staff to discuss NIFA and program updates and discuss how NIFA can best serve the HSI community in the future. Anyone with an interest in the HSI programs is welcome to join. 

March 22: Conversation with the Alaska Native-Serving Institutions and Native Hawaiian-Serving Institutions and Insular Areas The Alaska Native-Serving Institutions and Native Hawaiian-Serving Institutions Education Grants (ANNH) and Institutions of Higher Education in Insular Areas (RIIA and DEG) programs  will hold a meeting for stakeholders to meet with program staff to discuss NIFA and program updates and discuss how NIFA can best serve these communities in the future. Anyone with an interest in the ANNH or Insular Area programs is welcome to join.

March 24: NIFA National Reporting System Monthly Webinar Join NIFA for its monthly webinar about updates and improvements to the NIFA National Reporting System. The webinar will be held at 12:30 p.m. Central Time. If you missed last month’s webinar about the upcoming annual report builder module, view it online now.

March 24: Live FAQ Session: Veterinary Services Grant Program Join NIFA for a live FAQ session for applicants interested in the Veterinary Services Grant Program. Program staff will be available to answer your questions.

March 24: American Rescue Plan Technical Assistance RFA Webinar This webinar will provide information for potential applicants on the American Rescue Plan Technical Assistance Investment Program Request for Applications (RFA). This RFA is open to domestic nonprofit organizations and accredited public and nonprofit institutions of higher education with specialized expertise and a proven track record in working with underserved agricultural producers and/or the specific content for technical assistance. 

March 25: Live FAQ Session: Rapid Response to Extreme Weather Events Across Food and Agriculture Systems The Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Rapid Response to Extreme Weather Events Across Food and Agricultural Systems (A1712) program area priority is designed to rapidly identify and implement strategies to protect the nation’s food and agricultural supply chains and the people who support them during and after extreme weather events. We invite interested applicants to learn more about this program area priority and to meet our team during a live FAQ event.

March 28: Live FAQ Session: Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Join NIFA for a live FAQ session for applicants interested in the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program. Program staff will be available to answer your questions.

March 30: Economic Research Service Agricultural Trade Multipliers Join the Economic Research Service for the first webinar in its 2022 series and explore the Agricultural Trade Multipliers (ATM) data. Economic Research Service economist Wendy Zeng will present the highlights and potential takeaways from the ATM data product, provide an overview of what ATM is used for, and walk participants through how to use the online calculator.

Webinar graphic, courtesy of Adobe Stock.

NIFA In the News

Elderberry Research

More Than Syrup: Elderberry Research in Kannapolis Supports Development of New Food Product Possibilities

Ongoing work at the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis is producing surprising results when it comes to human health. A new research project will focus on the health properties of the elderberry. Marvin Moncada, Ph.D., came to North Carolina State University to build an Extension research program that creates value-added products, starting with the processing of raw materials and food byproducts and continuing through the development of novel food products or food ingredients. Over the next four years, the American elderberry will be a focus crop in fulfilling that mission as part of a $5.3 million research project, funded by USDA-NIFA’s Specialty Crop Research Initiative and led by the University of Missouri.

L to R: Drs. Roberta Hoskin, Marvin Moncada, Penelope Perkins-Veazie (North Carolina State Lead Investigator) and Mary Ann Lila. Credit: North Carolina Research Campus

Award Notifications

NIFA Invests Over $13 Million in Animal Health and Diseases Research

NIFA has invested over $13 million in research that explores novel therapies and prevention strategies for animal diseases that cost the agricultural industry billions worldwide. The 24 grants are part of NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative’s Diseases of Agricultural Animals program area priority. They will support projects at 17 universities, focusing on disease prevention, vaccine development and the development of management strategies to maintain healthy agricultural animals. Read more.

NIFA Invests Nearly $5 Million in Agricultural Biosecurity Program

NIFA has invested nearly $5 million in seven projects as part of the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative’s (AFRI) Agricultural Biosecurity program. The program supports research that increases the national capacity to prevent, rapidly detect and respond to biological threats to the U.S. agriculture and food supply. Learn more

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