USDA Awards More Than $28 Million in Specialty Crop Research

Gary Cooper Alabama, Citrus, Florida, General, Georgia, Specialty Crops

WASHINGTON, Oct. 8, 2008 – Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer today announced that USDA has awarded more than $28 million through the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) to solve critical specialty crop agriculture issues, address priorities and solve problems through multifunctional research and extension.

The Specialty Crop Research Initiative was established by the 2008 Farm Bill to support the specialty crop industry by developing and disseminating science-based tools to address needs of specific crops and their regions in five focus areas: 1) improve crop characteristics through plant breeding, genetics and genomics; 2) address threats from pests and diseases; 3) improve production efficiency , productivity and profitability; 4) develop new innovations and technologies and 5) develop methods to improve food safety. Each of the focus areas received at least 10 percent of the available funds. The majority of the funded projects address two or more focus areas.

The funded projects address research and extension needs for crops that span the entire spectrum of specialty crops, from sustainable production systems for turf grass to mechanical fruit thinning devices for peach and apple. Except for projects that addressed plant breeding, genetics and genomics of specific crops, successful applicants simultaneously addressed needs in more than a single crop. Major projects were also funded to protect important specialty crops from invasive pests, such as Citrus Greening.

Although 17 institutions will manage the research/extension grant funds from this program, each award includes collaborators from an average of three other states who will work together in a multi-disciplinary approach to solve problems. All of the awards required 100 percent matching funds from non-federal sources which will double the impact of the award dollars.

Fiscal Year 2008 SCRI research and extension grants were awarded to:

University of California-Davis, $3,221,134: Advanced Sensing and Management to Optimize Water and Nitrogen Use in Tree Crops.
Colorado State University, $1,667,679: Risk Assessment of Sampling Methods for Evaluating the Microbial Safety of Fresh Produce.
USDA/ARS U.S. Horticultural Research Laboratory, (FL), $991,591: Development of a Decision Support System for Managing Viral Watermelon Vine Decline and Other Vegetable Diseases Caused by Whitefly-Transmit.
University of Georgia, $1,703,301: Advancing Blueberry Production Efficiency by Enabling Mechanical Harvest, Improving Fruit Quality and Safety, and Managing Emerging Diseases.
USDA/ARS Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center (HI), $437,000: Ohelo, Vaccinium reticulatum, A Specialty Ornamental and Value Added Crop from Hawaii.
Purdue University, $350,000: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Develop a Safe and Effective Chlorine Dioxide Gas System for Controlling Pathogens in the Produce Industry.
USDA/ARS Beltsville Area Research Center,(MD), $1,000,000: Generating Genomic Tools for Blueberry Improvement.
Michigan State University, $555,313: Multi-Faceted Approach for Soil Detection and Management of Pythium and Phytophthora in Carrot, Tomato, Cucurbits, and Asparagus.
Rutgers University, $996,687: Breeding and Genetics of Fruit-Rot Resistance and Polyphenolics in the American Cranberry.
The Ohio State University, $1,113,214: Social Networking, Market and Commercialization Infrastructure for Midwestern Fruit and Vegetable Crops in Local Food Systems.
Carnegie Mellon University, $3,996,247: Integrated Automation for Sustainable Specialty Crop Farming.
Carnegie Mellon University, $6,010,232: Comprehensive Automation for Specialty Crops.
The Pennsylvania State University, $1,000,000: Innovative Technologies for Thinning of Fruit.
USDA/ARS Kika de la Garza Subtropical Agricultural Research Center (TX), $493,290: Development of an Area-Wide Approach for Controlling Infection and Spread of HLB of Asian Citrus Psyllid.
Washington State University, $2,244,274: Enhancing Biological Control to Stabilize Western Orchard IPM Systems.
University of Wisconsin, $485,085: Increasing the Environmental and Economic Sustainability of Sod Production using Biosolids.
USDA/ARS University of Wisconsin, $371,845: Deployment of Nutrient-Rich Nematode-Resistant Carrots to Benefit Growers, Consumers, and the Environment.
USDA/ARS University of Wisconsin, $998,957: Ensuring U.S. Onion Sustainability: Breeding and Genomics to Control Thrips and Iris Yellow Spot Virus.

The 2008 awards included a group of planning grants that will enable awardees to develop quality proposals for future SCRI funding opportunities. The FY 2008 planning grants were awarded to:

University of Arizona, $50,515: Informed Stakeholder Management of Virus-Vector Disease Reservoirs in Southwestern-U.S. Irrigated Vegetable Crops using GIS Mapping and Bio-Climatic/Economic Projections.
University of California-Davis, $99,994: A Multitasking Sensor Platform for Precision Management of Specialty Crop Production.
University of Florida, $92,308: Planning Meeting for Woody Landscape Plant Production and Pest Management Innovation.
Iowa State University, $34,020: Bioplastic Container Cropping Systems: GreenTechnology for the Green Industry.
Michigan State University, $75,000: Expanding Fresh Vegetable Production for the Great Lakes Market: A Planning Grant.
The Pennsylvania State University, $99,646: Aligning Consumer Demand, Agricultural Industry Resources and Research and Education to Service Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Markets.
University of Vermont, $100,000: A Public-Private Partnership to Promote Integrated Pest Management Implementation in Northern New England Greenhouse Ornamentals.
Washington State University, $98,181: Project Planning for Specialty Crop Covers that Use Degradable Materials.
Washington State University, $79,487: Developing a Team to Address Optimizing the White Wine Quality Through Plant Nutrient Management.

Through federal funding and leadership for research, education and extension programs, CSREES focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people’s daily lives and the nation’s future. For more information, visit USDA News
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