The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) today announced 10 grants totaling $7.2 million for research on the interactions of plants, microbes, and invertebrates. This is the first round of grants awarded through the Plant-Biotic Interactions program, a joint funding opportunity established through a partnership between NIFA and the National Science Foundation (NSF). The NIFA funding is made possible through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) program, authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.
“The research to be supported by these grants will help reveal the mechanisms that govern how plants interact with the world around them,” said NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy. “The expectation is that NIFA investments will result in tools for growers to help plants thrive in the face of pest and environmental constraints, along with other challenges.”
AFRI is America’s flagship competitive grants program for foundational and translational research, education, and extension projects in the food and agricultural sciences. The Plant Biotic Interactions program supports fundamental and applied research to provide a deeper understanding of the complex interactions between plants, and their associated microbes, and invertebrates. Through interagency cooperation between NIFA and NSF, this program allows seamless transitioning of research projects from basic sciences to user-inspired applied sciences that yield solutions to agricultural problems.
Project details can be found at the NIFA website.
Among the grants, a Tufts University proeject will investigate how plant-herbivore-microbe interactions shape the diversity of cabbage microbiomes. The team will also take a traveling microbiome discovery center to ten farmers’ markets located in low-income urban and rural areas of Massachusetts; exhibits in the discovery center use kimchi and sauerkraut, edible microbial ecosystems that millions of Americans eat every day. A South Dakota State University project will investigate how the symbiotic interactions between legumes, nitrogen-fixing bacteria, and fungi help legume plants obtain nitrogen and other nutrients, reducing the need for added nitrogen and phosphate fertilizers. The research may help improve yield and environmental sustainability of legume crops, which account for 27 percent of the world´s primary crop production.