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NIFA-Funded Research Projects Advance U.S. Aquaculture, Protect Our Oceans

Guest Author
Sara Delheimer, Program Coordinator, Multistate Research Fund Impacts

To mark World Oceans Day this June, we’re highlighting the collaborative work that Land-grant Universities are doing, through support from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), to both advance aquaculture in the U.S. and protect our coastal waters.

Helping Aquaculture Thrive in the U.S.

Salmon, shrimp, catfish, and other fish provide a significant source of protein, economic activity, and recreation, but the nation’s capture fisheries and aquaculture face numerous challenges.

These challenges range from the environmental shocks caused by climate change and other man-made disasters like oil spills, to supply chain issues and competition from foreign producers. These factors have led to economic stress and uncertainty, which has highlighted the need for aquaculture industries to better understand markets and improve production efficiency.

A NIFA-funded multistate research project that ended in 2019 brought scientists from 13 Land-grant Universities across the U.S. to study the management, trade and marketing issues in the aquaculture and fishery industries to enhance and sustain fishery and aquaculture production; increase organizational and institutional efficiency within the industries; and expand seafood markets and increase value.

The five-year study resulted in a range of solutions, including new ways to improve the cost-effectiveness of aquaculture systems to the creation of curricula for aquaculture producers and consumers on how to implement sustainable and profitable practices while also protecting our oceans.

Designing Climate-Resilient Septic Systems

Septic systems are common, but they can pose safety risks.

About 25% of households in the U.S. rely on septic systems, which are on-site wastewater treatment systems that typically consist of a storage tank for waste solids and a soil field that absorbs wastewater. Septic systems can also include natural and mechanical processes and materials to help treat and disperse wastewater.

For many sites, septic systems provide adequate treatment to protect public and environmental health, but septic systems that are poorly located or improperly designed, installed or maintained can release pathogens, chemicals and other pollutants into the soil and surface and
groundwater. Septic systems are also vulnerable to climate change. Shifts in precipitation and temperature and rising sea level and water tables can impair septic system performance.

In one NIFA-funded multistate research project that ended in 2020, scientists from 12 Land-grant Universities worked together to better understand the complex physical, chemical, and biological processes septic systems rely on. Through a multidisciplinary, multistate approach, the team designed septic systems that function under a wide range of environmental conditions and significantly reduce the amount of nitrogen that enters coastal waters.

Photo: Aerial view of the ocean wave courtesy of Adobe Stock. 

Farm Bill Priority Areas
Bioenergy, natural resources, and environment
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