USDA Announces $15.1 Million for Research on Renewable Energy, Biobased Products, and Agroecosystems

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) today announced 34 grants totaling $15.1 million for research on agricultural systems and production of biomaterials and fuels, socioeconomic implications and public policy challenges of bioenergy and bioproducts market development and expansion, understanding nutrient cycling in agricultural systems, and the management of agricultural ecosystems. The grants are funded through NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initative (AFRI), authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.

“Natural resources are essential to producing the food, fiber, and fuel that we use every day,” said NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy. “The NIFA research investments we expect will help us develop the next generation of renewable energy, bioproducts, and biomaterials, protect the ecosystems that support agriculture, and improve the agricultural systems and processes that help us feed our nation.”

The Agriculture and Food Research Initiative is America’s flagship competitive grants program for foundational and translational research, education, and extension projects in the food and agricultural sciences. These grants are awarded under the AFRI Foundational Bioenergy, Natural Resources, and Environment (BNRE) program. Funded projects support agroecosystem production that preserves needed ecosystems services, such as drinking water, pollination, and climate regulation.

All fiscal year 2016 grants being announced can be found here.

More information on these grants is available at the NIFA website.

Among the grant recipients, a Pennsylvania State University project will seek to increase farmer adoption rates for riparian buffers, which are vegetation strips that protect streams from farm runoff. A Colorado State University project will combine ecological and economic perspectives to produce an atlas of marginal lands in the United States that might support climate-friendly biofuel and bioenergy production.

Among past projects, the University of Vermont examined how working farms might benefit from alternative management systems that preserve soil fertility and reduce the overall environmental impact of agriculture. The study implemented approaches such as cover cropping and no-till fields on two farms and has collected economic data on the costs and returns of these practices at participating study farms. A collaborative effort between the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, North Carolina State University, and the University of Connecticut investigated the mechanisms that break down nitrogen from fertilizer and other sources into greenhouse gas. Their discoveries contradict current wisdom on these processes and could lead to new ways for farmers and others to reduce their emissions of harmful gases