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NIFA's Agriculture and Food Research Initiative: Addressing the nation's agricultural challenges

The President's Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 Budget Proposal for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), proposes doubling funding for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), minor increases in funding for some programs, and sustained funding for others. NIFA uses these funds to deploy research that underpins transformative discoveries needed to solve challenges to our nation’s nutritional security, including diminishing land and water resources, changing climate, and the need for environmental stewardship, in the context of the burgeoning population.

AFRI-funded science is vital to meeting food, fiber, and fuel demands as the world’s population races toward a projected 9 billion by 2050. NIFA-funded AFRI projects are already making strides defending agriculture against climate variability; water supply; food safety and security; and pollinator health. Here are some examples of how AFRI-funded research is addressing many of our nation’s complex agricultural challenges.

As variations in climate become more extreme, a number of abiotic factors, including increased water temperature and decreased water supply, may limit trout production. Montana State University researchers are studying how to develop low cost dietary interventions that could enable rainbow trout production to meet the increasing demands of aquaculture in spite of forecasted climate changes.

Beef produced on pasture and rangeland forages in the Southern Great Plains (SGP: Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas) provides a significant portion of the nation's red meat, constitutes the largest land use and agricultural enterprise in the region, and is subject to a widely variable climate. Researchers at Kansas State University are tracking these cattle in order to better understand SGP beef production vulnerability in the face of climate change. The goal is to increase the resiliency of beef cattle operations on grazing lands and wheat pasture so producers can better sustain future productivity through potential climate changes. As part of the work, researchers are also looking for the best ways to reduce beef production’s environmental footprint, such as finding the most efficient ways to use water, best grazing practices, best forages, and improving soil and water quality.

Human noroviruses cause more than five million cases of foodborne disease every year, more than any other pathogen, including Escherichia coli and Salmonella. A team of researchers led by North Carolina State University has discovered how noroviruses contaminate fresh produce, such as lettuce and kale. The research team has developed surface sanitizers that reduce norovirus on food service worker gloves and food processing surfaces. Other promising approaches for the inactivation of noroviruses include gamma irradiation, high intensity pulsed light, copper surfaces, and nanomaterials.

Bees are important to pollination in U.S. agriculture. Reports of their declines have raised concerns about risks to human food production, which have led to conservation efforts that augment resources for bees across the landscape. For these to be effective, critical information is needed on bee movement, particularly on distances they cover in search of pollen, nectar, and nesting sites. Oregon State University researchers are creating a lightweight electronic sensors platform for insect telemetry to better understand bee foraging and nesting behaviors in agricultural landscapes. This work to improve pollinator sustainability will lead to greater yielding bee-pollinated crops.

For more information regarding AFRI and the 2017 budget request, see a statement from NIFA Director Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy in his Feb. 3, 2016, blog regarding the importance of agricultural research. A fact sheet on AFRI's record of achievements is also available. 

Farm Bill Priority Areas
Food Safety, Nutrition, and Health
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