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Cucumber and summer squash. Photo courtesy of Peter Dittmar, University of Florida.

NIFA Commemorates 60 Years of the IR-4 Project

Nifa Authors
Lori Tyler Gula, Senior Public Affairs Specialist

USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is commemorating 60 years since the beginning of the Interregional Research Project No. 4 (IR-4 Project). Since it was established by Land-grant Universities and the USDA in 1963, IR-4 has championed specialty crop growers by facilitating the registration of safe, effective pest management solutions to meet their unique needs.  

Dr. Michelle Samuel-Foo, NIFA National Program Leader, serves as a member of IR-4’s Project Management Committee. As a former Regional Field Coordinator for IR-4’s Southern Region, Samuel-Foo brings deep knowledge of IR-4’s work to her role at NIFA and helps coordinate research and equity initiatives between the two organizations. 

“The IR-4 project is an outstanding example of a long-standing and very successful program that has been funded by  USDA-NIFA,” said Samuel-Foo. “On a fundamental level,  IR-4 helps to ensure that American consumers have access to a safe and nutritious supply of fruits and vegetables, which is a critical component of a healthy diet. I am extremely proud of the work that IR-4 does and grateful to be a proponent linking NIFA’s support and IR-4's continued work.” 

Specialty crops are essential components of a healthy diet, a thriving landscape, and a robust U.S. economy. According to an economic impact study by Michigan State University in 2022, IR-4 contributes $8.97 billion annually to the gross domestic product. Additionally, seven jobs today can be attributed to every $1,000 of public investment in IR-4. 

IR-4 has secured over 23,000 pest management product registrations through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for food crops, and countless others for ornamental crops. Putting farmers’ needs first, IR-4 assesses a range of tools — including reduced-risk chemical and bio-based pesticides, as well as emerging technologies and integrated solutions.  

Notable registrations facilitated by IR-4 include Chlorantraniliprole (a reduced-risk conventional pesticide) and Spinosad (a bio-based insecticide approved for both conventional and organic growers). As a result of IR-4’s submissions, these products are approved by EPA for use on numerous specialty crops. IR-4 has also secured several biopesticides to manage Varroa mites in honey bee colonies. These registrations help reduce dietary exposure to pesticides, increase growers’ pest management options, and secure the vitality of the U.S. food supply. 

IR-4 works closely with public and private sector partners to achieve its mission. NIFA, IR-4’s federal funding organization, is a key partner. NIFA and IR-4 share goals of advancing agricultural research to best serve growers and the environment, as well as ensuring all U.S. citizens enjoy a nutritious, accessible food supply. NIFA’s support is critical to IR-4’s research, and IR-4’s findings in the field and lab help shape NIFA’s understanding of the specialty crop community’s needs. 

Headquartered at North Carolina State University since 2021 (formerly at Rutgers University), IR-4 works nationwide through four regional offices, each collaborating with growers, commodity groups, state liaisons, Land-grant University researchers, Extension, and industry leaders to determine research priorities and conduct studies. IR-4 also works with international partners to harmonize pesticide regulations, spearheading the effort to streamline crop grouping across agencies. 

As the future of pest management grows increasingly complex, IR-4 and NIFA will continue to guide the specialty crop community forward with innovative and sustainable solutions. Visit the IR-4 website to connect via email, newsletter or social media— the organization will be sharing stories of impact throughout 2023 to commemorate its 60-year milestone. 

Top image: Cucumber and summer squash. Photo courtesy of Peter Dittmar, University of Florida. 

Farm Bill Priority Areas
Plant health, production, and products
Food Safety, Nutrition, and Health

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