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Sustainable Agricultural Production Systems

Safeguarding the Global Food Supply Through Sustainable Agricultural Systems 

NIFA supports programs that improve our nation's ability to achieve food security through increased production efficiencies and profitability while enhancing environmental stewardship and quality of life.

Impacts

Photo of wheat in a field by www.Lisov.ru, courtesy Getty Images.
Photo of wheat in a field by www.Lisov.ru, courtesy Getty Images.

‘Buck’-Naked is the New Way to View Barley - Researchers at Oregon State University (OSU) are giving the world’s oldest crop – barley – a new look. “Buck,” as in buck-naked, is a type of barley that sheds its hard outer hull during the harvest, which allows it to hold onto its whole grain status. The OSU team has bred naked barley from the Northwest with a Virginia variety to enhance disease resistance and other favorable traits. The combined traits enable Buck to flourish with less fertilizer and water than wheat and produce a higher yield. This leads to greater profitability so producers may get bigger bang for the buck.

New Vaccine Could be Huge Catch for Catfish Industry - Columnaris is a fatal disease that attacks fish through the mucous membrane covering their skin and gills. At Auburn University, researchers have produced a vaccine that can immunize catfish against the disease in a laboratory and are now testing it in the field. If successful, catfish farmers would have their most effective weapon against the disease. In 2017, commercial catfish farmers lost about 2.5 million pounds of fish to columnaris.

Cutting the Canopy to Cut Down on Pests - A researcher at the University of Hawaii showed that pruning the canopy in macadamia orchards reduces populations of a key pest, felted coccid, by half. Pruning also increases beneficial predatory beetles by 60-70 percent and parasitoids by 50-60 percent. Pruning did not affect yields, but nut quality was higher. Plant diversity in the pruned plots suggests that an increase in habitat for these beneficial insects plays an important role in the results.

Using Genetics to Reduce Insect Bites - U.S. Southern states produce 40 percent of the nation’s beef cows, but heat and humidity in the region cost the industry an estimated $369 million each year. As part of a Multistate Research Project, scientists at University of the Virgin Islands and Oklahoma State University are breeding cattle with resilience to insect bites, which raise an animals’ internal temperature. Producers will be able to reduce chemicals to control parasites, enhance production, and improve profits.

Sweet News for Cocoa Producers - Black pod rot is a disease that destroys 20-30 percent of cocoa beans every year. In West Africa, it’s not uncommon for severe outbreaks to kill all cacao fruit on a single farm. Now, researchers from Penn State University are using gene editing technology to breed cacao trees with enhanced resistance to diseases and climate change. Success in this endeavor will secure the raw material for the multi-billion dollar chocolate industry and improve the quality of life for smallholder cacao tree growers.

Teaming Up to Stop a Worldwide Disease - A tripartite collaborative research project of the University of Missouri, with partners from Teagasc in the Republic of Ireland and the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute in Northern Ireland, are working to reduce the prevalence of Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD) worldwide. BRD is the world’s most common and costly disease involving cattle. The team is using genetic testing to identify regions of the cattle genome that regulate the normal immune response to disease-causing pathogens. If successful, this research could reduce BRD and save the beef industry much of the $800 million it currently loses to the disease.

Photo of Bruce Reisch and grapevines, courtesy of Cornell University.
Photo of Bruce Reisch and grapevines, courtesy of Cornell University.

New Grapevine Cultivars may Revolutionize Wine Making - The wine industry needs new grape cultivars that are attractive to evolving consumer preferences and resistant to disease. VitusGen2, a multi-institutional research project led by the New York Experiment Station in Geneva, New York, is using high-resolution genetic maps to speed up the historically slow process of grape breeding. These new-generation, high-quality grapes adapt to a range of climates, appeal to consumers, and require less pesticide. The process reduces the plant breeding timeline by two or three years, reducing the time it takes producers to see improved yields and profits.

Farm bill priority areas
Agriculture systems and technology;
Agriculture economics and rural communities
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