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A pizza topped with black olives, pepperoni, mushrooms and basil along with the text "February 9 National Pizza Day"

National Pizza Day

Nifa Authors
Rachel Dotson, Public Affairs Specialist (Social Media)

Celebrate National Pizza Day with USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture! From the crust to the toppings and everything in between, check out how NIFA-funded research at Land-grant Universities plays a role in producing this popular dish.

The Crust

Detecting Toxic Mold in Grains
Mycotoxins are toxic substances produced by fungi—or molds—that reduce crop productivity and quality. Mycotoxins often develop in grains when they are stored or handled improperly. If contaminated grains are incorporated into animal feed or food products, this becomes a health hazard for livestock and humans. Exposure can lead to cancer, organ failure and reduced immune system function. Scientists across the United States have come together to conduct research and outreach that gives farmers, grain elevator operators, healthcare providers and veterinarians the information they need to detect mycotoxin exposure, assess risks, and treat related diseases. These research and outreach efforts are supported, in part, through NIFA by the Multistate Research Fund established in 1998 by the Agricultural Research, Extension and Education Reform Act. Learn more.

Read more on NIFA grain-funded research here.

If you choose a veggie crust, check out how this integrated pest management program helps vegetable growers maximize efficiency by Oregon State University Extension.


The Sauce

Undercover Tomatoes – Managing Stress, Pests and Disease
Heat, water and disease stressors are among the biggest hurdles for commercial and backyard tomato growers in the southwestern United States. Beet Curly Top Virus (BCTV) is a familiar problem affecting multiple crops in New Mexico and other semiarid regions of the world. A study through New Mexico Agricultural Experiment Station looked at how shade cloth may help growers overcome those hurdles by either protecting plants from the tiny insect vector that spreads BCTV (tiny, as in a skinny grain of rice) or reducing sun and heat stress on the plants and thereby reducing water requirements. Learn more.

The Cheese

Adding Value to Dairy Production
In Putnam County, Georgia, a large international energy/climate management corporation wanted to partner with Georgia dairy producers to produce biogas from dairy waste. Biogas is a renewable fuel created by the breakdown of organic matter such as food scraps and animal waste. The Putnam County Extension agent coordinated contacts with two dairy farms and the City of Eatonton on producing biogas. As a result, each dairy farm will receive 20% of the revenue generated by the sale of the biogas, estimated to be $40,000 to $50,000 per farm. Additionally, the corporation will return the methane-free digested material to each farm, which can be used as fertilizer or processed into a horticultural soil mixture. A local garden soil production facility is interested in the remaining solids, with a potential value of $5,000 to $10,000 a year per farm. Besides the income from methane production, the dairies will satisfy nearly 100% of their nutrient management requirements by digesting their generated animal waste products. This will greatly reduce operating costs relating to manure application, application equipment maintenance and manual labor. Learn more.

Read more NIFA dairy-funded research here. 

The Toppings

Improving Vaccine Performance in the Pork Industry
Swine influenza virus results in significant economic losses for U.S. swine producers. Vaccination is a viable strategy to mitigate influenza outbreaks, but available swine flu vaccines are not sufficiently cross-protective against various flu viruses. With support from NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, Ohio State University researchers developed a cost-effective, manufacture-friendly, corn-based vaccine. Learn more.  
Read more NIFA-funded pork research here.

Ability Garden Develops Veggie Program During Pandemic
During the pandemic, food security was a significant concern for many members of the Wilmington, N.C., community. In response, North Carolina Cooperative Extension developed Ability Garden at the New Hanover County Arboretum to provide therapeutic horticulture and gardening opportunities to special-needs individuals in the community. In the end, 75 soil bag/veggie kits were donated to urban communities and 1,200 vegetable plants for community gardens and rural residents were distributed across a three-county area. Learn more.


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