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USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture Science, Education, Extension Investments: Transformative Solutions to National, Global Challenges

WASHINGTON, Dec. 21, 2017 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) investments in research, education, and extension projects are resulting in transformative discoveries to meet the U.S.’s significant societal challenges.

“This has been a tremendous year of outcomes as a result of NIFA’s collaborations with leading scientists, policymakers, and extension professionals to identify and deliver innovative solutions to the most pressing local and global problems,” said NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy.

As 2017 comes to an end, Ramaswamy highlighted a few NIFA-funded projects representative of work its grantees have accomplished in a number of areas:

Maximizing agricultural productivity

  • With NIFA support through the Specialty Crop Research Initiative’s Citrus Disease Research and Extension program, researchers at the Boyce Thompson Institute in Ithaca, New York, have discovered in the stomachs of Asian citrus psyllids (ACP) a protein that may be part of the insect’s natural defense against the pathogen responsible for Huanglongbing (citrus greening). Results from this study could help Florida’s citrus industry recover from production losses caused by the disease, which is reported at more than $4.6 billion over the past 10 years.
  • With funding from the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), a team of researchers led by the University of California–Davis identified a gene from durum wheat, which is used to make pasta that confers resistance to the new virulent races of the UG99 stem rust pathogen that appeared in Africa at the beginning of this century.
  • AFRI-funded research at the University of Maine showed that female salmon with high levels of two types of hormone produce eggs that achieve an 80 percent survival rate. U.S. production of Atlantic salmon has dropped more than 35 percent since 2000, when the death rate of salmon embryos dropped to about 50 percent.

Providing a safe, nutritious, and secure food supply

  • Researchers at the University of Connecticut became the first to use plant products to treat Salmonella enteritidis where it starts, in chickens. Plant-derived antimicrobials can control growth of the infection in broilers, on meat from chickens, on eggshells, and in laying hens.
  • Cereon Biotechnology, a company in Fairbanks, Alaska, used a Small Business Innovation Research grant to identify a biochemical pathway in central nervous system neurons that links synaptic dysfunction to neuroinflammatory changes. Cereon also identified the potency of Alaska wild berries that may blunt the inflammatory damage.
  • North Carolina A&T University research into structural and cellular differences in swine respiratory systems contributed new findings to the science of respiratory health for swine and, potentially, for humans. The Evans-Allen-funded project could lead to improved treatments of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Responsible agricultural stewardship

  • Iowa State University researchers found that a bio-based, soybean-derived compound mitigates ammonia emissions at livestock facilities by up to 68 percent and major odors up to 90 percent without a significant increase in nitrous oxide emissions.
  • Researchers at Michigan State University used Specialty Crop Research Initiative funding to debunk the notion that planting flowers next to an almond orchard reduces harvest yields. In fact, their study showed that the additional flowers benefitted the cash crop and added diversity to pollinating bees’ diet, which improved bee health and increased hive populations.
  • Fort Valley State University researchers created Targeted Selective Treatment (TST) in which only infected sheep and goats receive treatment for barber’s pole worm. TST reduces the use of synthetic drugs by up to 90 percent, saving farmers $150-$200 per 100 animals per year.

“The partnership of NIFA and its grantees is helping American agriculture become more competitive, bolstering the U.S. economy by creating jobs, enhancing the safety of our nation’s food supply, improving nutrition, sustaining natural resources and the environment, and building energy independence,” Ramaswamy added. “We look forward to the great work of our partners in 2018.”

NIFA’s mission is to invest in and advance agricultural research, education, and extension to solve societal challenges. NIFA’s investments in transformative science directly support the long-term prosperity and global preeminence of U.S. agriculture. To learn more about NIFA’s impact on agricultural sciences, visit, sign up for email updates, or follow us on Twitter @USDA_NIFA, #NIFAImpacts.

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