While horticultural crops grow on only a fraction of U.S. agricultural lands, they represent nearly 40 percent of U.S. agricultural crop production. They diversify and enhance human diets and improve our living environment and personal well-being. NIFA, through federal funding and program leadership, sustains cutting-edge horticultural research, education, and extension at our partner colleges and universities.
NIFA horticultural program areas include: 1) sustainable production and postproduction handling (postharvest physiology) of fruits, nuts, vegetables, flowers, and landscape crops; 2) environmentally sensitive management of landscape plantings and gardens, including sports areas and parks; and 3) horticultural impacts on human health and well-being, such as social, mental, and physical horticultural therapy.
Horticultural science includes: plant physiology and biochemistry; plant nutrition; plant ecology; controlled environments; plant breeding and genetics; and crop-specific technology. Related issues include: invasive species; organic crop production; production systems integrating nutrient, irrigation, and pest management; economically sustainable plant production systems; food safety; and being competitive in global markets.
The value of commercial horticultural crops is almost evenly split among three areas: vegetables; nursery/greenhouse; and fruits, nuts, and berries. Horticultural production is increasing at an average annual growth rate of about 3 percent. Ornamental crop production is the largest and fastest-growing segment of the industry, as well as its most diverse.
NIFA sustains horticultural research, education, and extension at the land-grant universities. NIFA supports and challenges its partnering universities to develop curricula and produce graduates prepared to work in horticultural systems that are increasingly complex, highly technical, and requiring multidisciplinary and cooperative approaches for solutions. NIFA encourages development of problem-based curricula that prepare graduates to deal with emerging challenges of national and global social change.
NIFA administers formula program funds and administers other funds for new and high-priority programs. Formula funds provide base funding for specific programs. To fund new and high-priority program areas, the NIFA national program leaders (NPLs) administer research, education, and extension competitive grants.
NIFA NPLs represent NIFA on Multistate Research Funded (MRF) projects related to horticulture (see PARTNERSHIPS for a list of MRF projects). Besides students and researchers, beneficiaries of NIFA horticultural programs include: those in horticultural therapy programs; individuals with a single plant; homeowners with flower beds and gardens; and businesses producing or maintaining large acreages of vegetable, fruit, and flowering plants, as well as turf and ornamentals.
- North Central Regional Association (NCRA) of State Agricultural Experiment Station Directors
- Southern Association of Agricultural Experiment Station Directors
- Western Association of Agricultural Experiment Station Directors
- Northeastern Regional Association of State Agricultural Experiment Station Directors
- National Invasive Species Council
- New Law Modifies Specialty Crop Research Initiative Competitive Grants Program
- Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Announces Investments in Specialty Crops to Help Strengthen New Markets, Provide Additional Economic Opportunity for Farmers and Ranchers
- USDA Supports Research and Marketing of Organic Agriculture in 18 States
- USDA Awards More Than $46 Million for Specialty Crop Research and Extension
- USDA Invests in America's Specialty Crops with Research and Extension Activities in 19 States
- USDA Grants Invest in Specialty Crop Research and Education Activities
- Agriculture Deputy Secretary Merrigan to Announce Specialty Crop Research and Extension Grants in 19 States
- American Horticultural Society (AHS)
- American Horticultural Therapy Association (AHTA)
- American Society for Horticultural Science
- National Clean Plant Network
- National Plant Diagnostic Network
- Regional IPM Centers
- USDA Economic Research Service