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MSU and University of California Among Recipients of USDA Grants for Specialty Crop Research

October 21, 2011 |

USDA National Program for Genetic Improvement of Feed Efficiency in Beef CattleThe U.S. Department of Agriculture is doling out cash to universities through multiple grant programs in support of specialty crop research.

The University of California announced that its researchers will receive more than $6 million in funding from the department’s 2011 Specialty Crop Block Grant program. The program aims to enhance the competiveness of fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruit, horticulture and nursery crops. Meanwhile, Michigan State University announced that its researchers will receive more than $5 million from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture through the Specialty Crop Research Initiative.

The University of California—a university system that consists of 10 campuses—will use its funds “to enhance agricultural markets, address environmental concerns, protect plant health, provide farmers with scientifically tested production techniques and increase food safety,” the University of California said on its Web site.

The USDA awarded $55 million nationwide for the grant program, the University of California said. The university system was chosen to receive the money after the California Department of Food and Agriculture identified 72 projects in the state for the funding. Those projects included 30 headed by the University of California agricultural researchers.

“Funding for specialty crop research is critical to California’s $37.5 billion agricultural industry because many of the crops grown in California are considered specialty crops,” said Barbara Allen-Diaz, vice president for agriculture and natural resources for the university system. “With these funds, UC scientists will be helping California farmers find new ways to protect their crops from pests and diseases, remain economically viable, and provide healthy food for an increasing number of people.”

Michigan State University received its grant funds of more than $5 million from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture as part of the Specialty Crop Research Initiative, the university announced on its Web site.

Research projects at the university that will benefit from the funds focus on developing of resource-efficient and ecologically sustainable production systems for apple and cherry producers, studying ways to limit bird damage to fruit crops, and studying genomics-based approaches for improving petunia production efficiency and performance.

The USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture awarded 29 Specialty Crop Research Initiative grants across 19 states, with the grants totaling $46 million, according to the federal department. The goal of the initiative is to support the specialty crop industry by “developing and disseminating science-based tools to address the needs of specific crops,” the department said. Other university entities also benefited from the initiative grants. A few of those included the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the University of Wisconsin, the University of Georgia Research Foundation and Washington State University.


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