USDA Announces New Scientific Research Program

Published online: Sep 18, 2019 Articles
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Source: USDA-NIFA

USDA Deputy Under Secretary Scott Hutchins announced last week that the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has invested $77.8 million in research that will focus on sustaining a more abundant, nutritious, and accessible food supply.

As part of this funding investment, eight universities will lead projects aimed at integrating sustainable agricultural approaches covering the entire food production system.

“Investing in high-value research that promotes sustainably intensified agricultural practices, while addressing climate adaptation and limited resources, ensures long-term agricultural productivity and profitability and provides unprecedented opportunities for American farmers and producers,” said Hutchins, who leads USDA’s Research, Education and Economics (REE) mission area. “USDA continues to support our nation’s farmers through investments that help strengthen our rural communities.”

Among the eight universities leading these projects, Western Illinois University will lead research aimed at developing pennycress as an oilseed crop that can be used as biofuel. Its goal is to help farmers throughout the U.S. Midwest Corn Belt and in other temperate-regions to grow pennycress as a winter-annual cash cover crop. Pennycress is a unique, high-yielding oilseed crop that can provide environmental benefits including reducing nitrogen runoff and preventing soil erosion.

New Mexico State University will focus on improving the efficiency of Southwestern ranches by using systems models and linking the socioeconomic and environmental trade-offs associated with heritage cattle genetics, precision ranching and range finishing. This will ultimately help Southwest producers find more economical and sustainable ways to raise beef cattle using precision farming techniques.

North Carolina State University is leading a multi-institutional project that focuses on increasing crop productivity, conserving natural resources, and reducing the agro-ecological footprint using cover crops. This research investment taps into creative intellect from 19 universities and scientific experts from USDA’s Agricultural Research Service.

This research investment is part of a new program within NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative’s (AFRI) Sustainable Agricultural Systems program, the nation’s leading and largest competitive grants program for agricultural sciences. AFRI is authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill and addresses major challenges in food, agriculture, natural resources and human sciences.

“If we want a sustainable food production system that also safeguards our natural resources, we need approaches that are both innovative and economically viable for our nation’s farmers, ranchers and food producers.  This ultimately benefits our nation’s consumers,” said Hutchins.

The eight universities selected for the project are: 

  • University of Arkansas
  • Western Illinois University
  • Kansas State University
  • New Mexico State University
  • North Carolina State University
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • Texas A&M University
  • University of Wisconsin

A list of each of the universities' research projects is available on the NIFA website(link is external).