The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) today announced 12 new grants totaling $35 million for science-based solutions and new technology for the specialty crop industry. Funding is made through the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI), authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.
“Specialty crops generally fetch high value for the farmers, but require more intensive farming than conventional crops, such as wheat or corn,” said NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy. “NIFA investments in specialty crop research provide high-tech solutions to the needs of farmers and processors. They foster a competitive U.S. industry that offers abundant, nutritious, safe and affordable food sources.”
Specialty crops are defined as fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, and horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture. The Specialty Crop Research Initiative seeks to invest in long-term solutions that address problems in the overlapping systems of production, distribution and processing, and consumers and markets. This research initiative encourages collaboration, open communication, the exchange of information, and the development of resources that accelerate application of scientific discovery and technology to help U.S. producers be more competitive in a global market.
The new recipients of fiscal year 2017 grants are:
• University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas, $2,447,432
• University of California, Santa Cruz, California, $2,513,040
• University of California, Davis, California, $4,494,490
• Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, $2,538,539
• University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, $45,470
• Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, $3,208,657
• University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota, $5,485,292
• Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, $6,550,976
• Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, $4,409,547
• Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, $3,279,861
• Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, $46,550
• University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin, $46,550
These projects include a Texas A&M University effort to enhance the sustainability and profitability of melon production in the United States, emphasizing consumer preferences and industry-driven needs. The University of Arkansas is leading a multi-state and multi-agency collaboration to meet growing consumer demand for spinach by developing new, disease-resistant cultivars and conducting outreach to industry stakeholders.
NIFA has invested more than $400 million through the SCRI program to date. Among past projects, a University of Maryland project developed a wireless irrigation system to save water, increase efficiency, and reduce the environmental impacts of ornamental plant production practices. Michigan State University led a multi-year, public-private collaboration to develop region- and crop-specific pollination management approaches using both wild and managed native bees. The Integrated Crop Pollination project has resulted in resources for growers, research publications, and has helped growers increase yield with lower production costs.
More information on these projects is available on the NIFA website.