The first research grant issued through the Crops of the Future Collaborative from the Foundation of Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) will be focused on addressing downy mildew in lettuce. Professor and Director of the UC Davis Genome Center, Richard Michelmore received an FFAR grant of $2.5 million over five years to expand genomics resources in the leafy greens category.
“We were created in the 2014 Farm Bill as a way to provide additional funding through a unique model for agriculture research,” said FFAR Executive Director Sally Rockey. “We look for areas where a small influx of funding can really make a difference and where there’s not a lot of funding put on a particular area. We also then look for partners who share our goals and objectives.”
The research will provide benefits for both conventional and organic farmers, as downy mildew is one of the most significant pathogens threatening the lettuce industry valued at approximately $3 billion. The goal is that by addressing the pathogen farmers will see a reduction of crop losses and improved profitability. “We’re looking at new ways we can do genetics and try to produce resistant lettuce to downy mildew,” said Rockey.
The grant award will total $5 million after FFAR doubles the original Crops of the Future Collaborative investment. Matching funds are provided by a group of multi-national collaborators looking to address issues in agricultural production. “In this case, we have a consortium that’s composed of ten members currently, and soon to be a few more, that are working in leafy greens, corn, and wheat,” Rockey said. “We’ll be branching out to other crops as well.”
The foundation was originally developed as a result of the last farm bill and the Senate draft of the next farm bill also includes additional support for FFAR. “I think what we’ve demonstrated over the course of the last year is that this model really works and that we’re able to leverage tax-payer dollars with additional funding. In fact, we bring in more than a one-to-one match on our funding,” said Rockey.