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May the 4th Be With You - May 4, 2022

May the 4th Be With You

Nifa Author
Lori Tyler Gula, Senior Public Affairs Specialist

USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) may not fund light saber or droid research but, with support from NIFA, scientists are developing advanced technologies to meet the complex agricultural challenges faced by the United States and throughout the world. On this May the 4th, learn how scientists at the Land-grant Universities are conducting cutting-edge research to help farmers produce higher quantities of safer and better-quality food, fiber and fuel to meet the needs of a growing population with support from NIFA.

At Oregon State University (OSU), researchers are developing an agrivoltaics farm at the North Willamette Research and Extension Center. Researchers also are using solar panels installed near the OSU dairy and vegetable farm in Corvallis, collecting data as it grew crops and grazed sheep on land partially shaded by the panels. Wide-scale installation of agrivoltaic systems on U.S. farms, using arable land to simultaneously grow crops and generate solar power, could lead to an annual reduction of 330,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions – the equivalent of 75,000 cars off the road per year – and the creation of more than 100,000 jobs in rural communities, while minimally impacting crop yield.

Researchers at Land-grant Universities are working to make the textile industry more sustainable by finding ways to conserve energy and water during textile production, develop new technologies to treat textile wastewater and create bio-based textiles from agricultural byproducts. Learn more about these innovations that are funded by a NIFA multi-state research project.

Colorado State University researchers developed polymer encapsulated nanofibers that can help control drug delivery.

Cornell University researchers used biodegradable resin and newspapers to develop corrugated composites that can be used in durable, compostable shipping boxes and other products. Cornell scientists also:

  • Made composites from natural fibers, such as jute, which are strong enough to use instead of plywood or particleboard. 
  • Are working on tough bio-based fiber composites that could replace the composites (e.g., Kevlar) currently used for ballistic protection. 
  • Found that soy protein-based resins have lower flammability than some conventional petroleum-based resins, suggesting they could be used for housing and other structures. 
  • Created strong resin from inexpensive mango seed starch that is typically discarded. 
  • Developed bio-based resins that are up to 800% tougher and can self-heal cracks. This means these resins last longer and are useful, economical replacements for conventional petroleum-based plastics and composites. 

Scientists at the Cornell University, Montana State University, University of Tennessee, Washington State University and the University of Wisconsin developed bio-based fiber mulches, landscape fabrics, row covers and insect control meshes that are biodegradable and decrease chemical use. 

Iowa State University scientists developed cellulose-based textiles that are strong, absorb less water and are well-suited for regular daily wear. They also are growing cellulosic fibers in a mat-like layer that doesn’t have to be processed into yarn or formed into fabric and can be used like leather.

University of California-Davis researchers created cellulose nanofibers coated with silver nanoparticles that have excellent dispersing, coagulating and antimicrobial properties as films. The California scientists also created bio-based, super-absorbent nanocellulose aerogels that can selectively remove oils and other toxicants. 

University of Georgia researchers used agricultural residues to develop nanocomposite gels for binding dyes to textiles. With long-lasting potency, this dyeing process uses less water, requires only one rinse and allows unlimited recycling of the dyeing solution. Georgia researchers also developed a nontoxic nanoyarn that supports cell growth and could be used in sutures, hernia meshes, wound healing gauzes and tissue scaffolds. 

University of Nebraska researchers produced natural dyes from crop residues. Nebraska scientists also reused waste carpets to create composites with excellent mechanical and acoustical properties. 

University of Texas-Austin researchers produced biodegradable polyester resin from recycled paper and plastics, reducing waste and protecting the environment. 

May the 4th be with you.


Farm Bill Priority Areas
Agriculture systems and technology
U.S. States and Territories
New York,
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