NIFA Update - Sept. 21, 2022

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Editor:  Lori Tyler Gula, Ph.D.                                                                September 21, 2022

Making a Difference NIFA graphic icon.
Field pennycress, courtesy of Ohio State Weed Lab/The Ohio State University.

From Weed to Feedstock and Biofuel  

Thanks to a $10 million dollar grant awarded by NIFA in 2019, a common weed of the upper Midwest is moving ever closer to becoming a cover crop that can be used both as a component in biofuels and livestock feeds. The research effort focuses on pennycress and developing it as a winter-annual cash cover crop for use by the biofuel industry. The Coordinated Agriculture Project was funded through NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative competitive grant program. The five-year project is led by investigators at Western Illinois University who are working with researchers from Illinois State University, the Ohio State University, the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and the University of Minnesota.

Field pennycress, courtesy of Ohio State Weed Lab/The Ohio State University.

From the Director

National Institute of Food and Agriculture Director, Dr. Dionne Toombs

Stakeholders and Friends,

As we continue to await the selection of a new NIFA Director, I wanted to provide an update to highlight some recent leadership changes in the agency.

Effective this week, Drenda Williams will serve as NIFA’s Acting Senior Operations and Policy Officer.

Until the selection of a permanent Associate Director for Operations is made, Brent Elrod will assume the duties of the Acting Associate Director of Operations, while he continues to serve as the Acting Associate Director for Programs.

Once a new NIFA Director is identified and onboarded, I will assume a new permanent position with NIFA as the Associate Director for Programs. I’m excited to continue to serve NIFA as the Acting NIFA Director. It’s great to be back with the agency serving our stakeholders and the NIFA staff in generating and managing innovative programs across our portfolio.

NIFA staff have done a remarkable job moving the agency forward and meeting our goals during this transition period. Please join me in thanking them for their dedication and tireless efforts administering grants and providing you with the level of customer service you deserve.

For a view of our current leadership, you can find our updated organization chart on our website.

Dr. Dionne Toombs
Acting Director, National Institute of Food and Agriculture

NIFA Webinars

Webinar graphic, courtesy of NIFA.

Webinar graphic, courtesy of NIFA.

Application Deadlines

Award Announcements

NIFA Invests $1.1M in Higher Education Multicultural Scholars Program

NIFA has invested $1.1 million in five grants as part of the Higher Education Multicultural Scholars Program. The purpose of this competitive undergraduate scholarship grant program is to increase the multicultural diversity of the food and agricultural scientific and professional workforce and advance the educational achievement of all Americans by providing competitive grants to colleges and universities. Scholarships support recruiting, mentoring, and training committed multicultural scholars, resulting in either baccalaureate degrees within the food and agricultural science disciplines or Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degrees. FY 2022 Awardees: California Polytechnic State University; California State University, Fresno; Delaware State University; Purdue University; and The Regents of the University of California (Davis).

Federal Register

Federal Register graphic.

Notice of Stakeholder Listening Session Regarding Science Priorities

NIFA announces its stakeholder listening initiative “NIFA Listening Session for Stakeholder Input to Science Priorities.” This stakeholder listening opportunity on Nov. 2 informs the research, Extension and education priorities of NIFA, which has the mission of investing in and advancing agricultural research, education and Extension to solve societal challenges. For the purpose of this opportunity, agriculture is defined broadly and includes research, Extension, and education in food, fiber, forestry, range, nutritional and social sciences, including food safety and positive youth development. NIFA's investments in transformative science directly support the long-term prosperity and global pre-eminence of U.S. agriculture.

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Upcoming Events

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New EXCITE Programming Opportunity

EXCITE has launched a new phase of programming opportunities to support adult immunization education beyond COVID-19 and increase vaccine confidence in Land-grant University Extension communities. This opportunity is open to all institutions, even those not currently involved with an EXCITE project. Anyone interested in participating or learning more about this opportunity is invited to the project introduction session Sept. 22 at 3 p.m. EDT. The project's elements, timelines and goals will be covered in this introductory session, and questions will be answered. Registration required.

EXCITE Extension Collaborative on Immunization Teaching and Engagement graphic. to be Offline During Upcoming Migration to Cloud is being migrated to the cloud. To ensure a smooth and successful transition, an extended period of downtime has been scheduled for (website, mobile app, system-to-system) will be offline and unavailable during the following period: Friday, Sept. 23, at 12:01 a.m. EDT to Thursday, Sept. 29, at 11:59 p.m. EDT.

NIFA Staff to Discuss NEXTGEN RFA at HACU Webinar

NIFA is joining the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) to offer an informational overview on the new funding opportunity titled From Learning to Leading: Cultivating the Next Generation of Diverse Food and Agriculture Professionals Program (NEXTGEN), Thursday, Sept. 29, 3 p.m. EDT. The grant opportunity will provide up to $250 million in funding for scholarship support, experiential learning opportunities, and outreach and engagement programs to build awareness of agriculture-related career opportunities. Maximum award amounts range from $5 million to $20 million. Register online. 

NIFA Staff to Discuss New Hatch Integrated Multistate Research Project

A new Hatch Integrated Multistate Research Project on Tourism Resilience and Community Sustainability — Tourism Resilience and Community Sustainability: Adaptation and Recovery of Rural Businesses and Destinations — was approved and will launch Oct. 1. Please join this webinar on Oct. 20 at 3 p.m. EDT to learn more about Hatch Integrated Multistate Research Projects and how Extension professionals, academic faculty and industry partners can benefit from participating in this project. During the webinar, representatives from NIFA, Northeastern Regional Association of State Agricultural Experiment Station Directors, agriculture experiment stations and the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development will discuss the purpose of Hatch, how to participate and expected outcomes of this project. This webinar is hosted by the National Extension Tourism Design Team and the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development. Registration is required. Sign-up online.

News from NIFA

NIFA National Farm Safety and Health Week graphic.

Study Reveals Agriculture-Related Injuries More Numerous than Previously Known

This week is National Farm Safety and Health Week. A study supported by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture by Penn State researchers suggests that the agriculture industry is even more dangerous than previously believed. The research is important because getting a better handle on the number of agriculture-related injuries and how they occur may lead to a reduction in accidents.

NIFA National Farm Safety and Health Week graphic.

Read more
about the impacts of NIFA-funded research and Extension programs on our Blogs page.

Impact of NIFA-Funded Research and Outreach

The no-till soils (shown here) contained more soil organic carbon, courtesy of Penn State Extension.

No-till Management May Reduce Nitrous Oxide Gas Releases, Fight Climate Change

A new NIFA-supported study by Penn State finds that tillage had more influence on microbial community composition and gene markers than either crop type or crop stage. Compared to the other tillage practices, no-till soils contained fewer marker genes for some types of nitrous oxide-producing bacteria but no differences in nitrous oxide-degrading bacteria, suggesting that no-till soils may generate and emit less nitrous oxide gas.

The no-till soils (shown here) contained more soil organic carbon, according to the researchers, courtesy of Penn State Extension.

Members of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and Extension educator transplanting hydroponic lettuce, courtesy of Remsberg Inc.

Respecting Roots and Growing for the Future with the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation

Six years ago, there was a 300-acre parcel of wooded land in North Stonington, Connecticut. That parcel of land has transformed into Meechooôk Farm, a vibrant agricultural operation for the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation. Today, there are two parcels of land that total 600 acres. Now the land is used for production, with greenhouses growing hydroponic lettuce and tomatoes year-round, fruit plantings, livestock and plans to further expand the farm and the agricultural products they can grow. The transformation of the land was made possible through support from UConn Extension educators and the Federally Recognized Tribes Extension Program funded by NIFA.

Members of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and Extension educator transplanting hydroponic lettuce at the Meechooôk Farm, courtesy of Remsberg Inc.

The Spring 2022 ME415 Capstone Project group, courtesy of Iowa State University.

Agronomists, Engineering Students Create Innovative In-Field Research Chamber to Breed Heat Tolerant Varieties

A multidisciplinary project at Iowa State University is harnessing engineering to solve agronomic challenges, enlisting undergraduates to develop an innovative research chamber to study soybeans’ responses in the field to current and future climate conditions. With support from NIFA through the IA Institute for Resilient Agriculture grant, the team invented a practical, portable field-deployable research chamber. Essentially a mini greenhouse, the chamber is meant to offer new options to control conditions for plant testing in the field. 

The Spring 2022 ME415 Capstone Project group with their portable research chamber prototype, courtesy of Iowa State University.

Career Opportunities

NIFA Career Opportunities graphic.

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.

Director, Division of Agricultural Systems (Supervisory Biological Science Specialist), GS-15. This vacancy, in NIFA’s Institute of Food Production and Sustainability, seeks candidates with expertise in providing direction and leadership for regional or national food and agricultural sciences multidisciplinary programs related to food and agricultural systems. Closing Date: Sept. 30 or when we have received 200 applications. View the job announcement.  

Program Analyst, (GS 12/13). Closing Date: Oct. 3 or when we have received 100 applications. View the job announcement.

NIFA Career Opportunities graphic.

NIFA In the News

News from USDA

Ag Census Counts graphic, courtesy of NASS.

Census of Agriculture Coming This November

America’s farmers and ranchers will soon have the opportunity to be represented in the nation’s only comprehensive and impartial agriculture data for every state, county and territory. USDA will mail the 2022 Census of Agriculture to millions of agriculture producers across the 50 states and Puerto Rico this fall. Collected in service to American agriculture since 1840 and now conducted every five years by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), the Census of Agriculture tells the story and shows the value of U.S. agriculture. It highlights land use and ownership, producer characteristics, production practices, income and expenditures, among other topics. Changes to the 2022 questionnaire include new questions about the use of precision agriculture, hemp production, hair sheep, and updates to internet access questions.

Ag Census Counts graphic, courtesy of NASS.

Tweet of the Week

Tweet of the Week Sept 21, 22 – UC San Diego

Applying new CRISPR-based technology to a broad agricultural need, researchers at the @UCSanDiego have set their aims on a worldwide pest known to decimate valuable food crops. Follow us on Twitter to stay up to date on NIFA-funded research and Extension projects.

LinkedIn Post of the Week

LinkedIn post of the week Sept. 21 – International collaboration

International collaboration is extremely important for the future of agriculture within our country and around the world. Solutions developed by NIFA-funded researchers at Land-grant Universities and institutions of higher education in the United States could benefit other parts of the world. Many domestic advances in the agricultural sector also rely upon international collaboration.