The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced 10 grants totaling $7.2 million for research on the interactions of plants, microbes, and invertebrates. This is the first round of grants awarded through the Plant-Biotic Interactions program, a joint funding opportunity established through a partnership between NIFA and the National Science Foundation (NSF). The NIFA funding is made possible through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) program, authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.
“The research to be supported by these grants will help reveal the mechanisms that govern how plants interact with the world around them,” said NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy. “The expectation is that NIFA investments will result in tools for growers to help plants thrive in the face of pest and environmental constraints, along with other challenges.”
AFRI is America’s flagship competitive grants program for foundational and translational research, education, and extension projects in the food and agricultural sciences. The Plant Biotic Interactions program supports fundamental and applied research to provide a deeper understanding of the complex interactions between plants, their associated microbes, and invertebrates. Through interagency cooperation between NIFA and NSF, this program allows seamless transitioning of research projects from basic sciences to user-inspired applied sciences that yield solutions to agricultural problems.
Among the FY16 NIFA grants:
- University of California, Davis, California, $542,620
- The University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, $911,544
- The University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, $863,489
- Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, $496,345
- Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, $791,380
- Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, $586,185
- Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, $634,320
- Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts, $387,783
- South Dakota State University, Brookings, South Dakota, $999,942
- Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, $982,718
Project details can be found on the NIFA website.
Among the grants, a Tufts University project will investigate how plant-herbivore-microbe interactions shape the diversity of cabbage microbiomes. The team will also take a traveling microbiome discovery center to ten farmers’ markets located in low-income urban and rural areas of Massachusetts; exhibits in the discovery center use kimchi and sauerkraut, edible microbial ecosystems that millions of Americans eat every day. A South Dakota State University project will investigate how the symbiotic interactions between legumes, nitrogen-fixing bacteria, and fungi help legume plants obtain nitrogen and other nutrients, reducing the need for added nitrogen and phosphate fertilizers. The research may help improve yield and environmental sustainability of legume crops, which account for 27 percent of the world´s primary crop production.
NIFA invests in and advances agricultural research, education, and extension and promotes transformative discoveries that solve societal challenges. NIFA support for the best and brightest scientists and extension personnel have resulted in user-inspired, groundbreaking discoveries that combat childhood obesity, improve and sustain rural economic growth, address water availability issues, increase food production, find new sources of energy, mitigate climate variability, and ensure food safety. To learn more about NIFA’s impact on agricultural science, visit www.nifa.usda.gov/impacts, sign up for email updates or follow us on Twitter @usda_NIFA, #NIFAImpacts.