Research on Pests and Beneficial Species Funding from USDA

DanForestry, Funding, Industry News Release, Research

beneficial species

Garden snail (Helix aspersa) is sitting on cabbage. Leaves with holes, eaten by pests.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced 21 grants totaling $7.6 million for research to help manage pests and beneficial species that affect agricultural crops. The funding is made possible through NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) program, authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.

“There continues to be a critical need to develop new ways to defend our crops against pests,” said NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy. “NIFA investments will also help to develop better strategies to foster the beneficial insects and microbes that have potential to combat pests.”

AFRI is America’s flagship competitive grants program for foundational and translational research, education, and extension projects in the food and agricultural sciences. This is the first round of grants made under the Pests and Beneficial Species in Agricultural Production Systems area of the AFRI Foundational program. Funded projects support research to promote beneficial organisms associated with pests, as well as to better understand the fundamental mechanisms that inform interactions between plants, pests, or beneficial species. The research is expected to lead to innovative, environmentally sound strategies to manage agricultural pests and beneficial species.

The recipients of the fiscal year 2016 grants are:

  • University of California, Riverside, California, $450,000
  • USDA, Agricultural Research Service, Albany, California, $466,857
  • USDA, Agricultural Research Service, Albany, California, $25,000
  • Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, $474,766
  • University of Georgia Research Foundation, Athens, Georgia, $25,000
  • University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho, $149,814
  • The University of Illinois, Champaign, Illinois, $474,825
  • TheUniversityy of Illinois, Champaign, Illinois, $474,742
  • USDA, Agricultural Research Service, Beltsville, Maryland, $470,675
  • University of New Hampshire, Durham, New Hampshire, $474,679
  • Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research, Ithaca, New York, $474,071
  • Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, $474,650
  • Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, $382,032
  • The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, $469,220
  • Pennsylvania State University, State College, Pennsylvania, $474,852
  • Gordon Research Conferences, West Kingston, Rhode Island, $10,000
  • Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina, $450,000
  • Texas A&M ArgiLife Research, College Station, Texas, $474,852
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia, $475,000
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia, $18,000
  • Washington State University, Pullman, Washington, $474,850

These projects include a University of New Hampshire project to determine if pesticide seed treatments inadvertently protect weed seeds in the soil from being attacked by naturally occurring invertebrate and fungal species. The University of Georgia is assembling a multi-state team to understand causes of dieback in the Eastern white pine, one of the most valuable conifer species in eastern North America.

Among past projects, a University of Arizona researcher is seeking to better understand how the insect-killing nematode (a parasitic threadworm) benefits from symbiotic bacteria. This research may help develop tools to make nematodes more effective insect pest control agents. A Cornell University researcher is studying how encounters between insect pests and predatory insects dramatically lower the pests’ appetite for potatoes. The research may lead to new, combined approaches to managing pests.

More information on these projects is available on the NIFA website.

Related to this funding opportunity, NIFA is partnering with Ireland and Northern Ireland under the United States – Ireland Research and Development Partnership to support collaborative research on pests and beneficial species in agricultural production systems. This pilot partnership seeks to leverage fiscal, physical and intellectual resources to facilitate coordinated research that is mutually relevant in all three countries.

NIFA invests in and advances agricultural research, education, and extension and promotes transformative discoveries that solve societal challenges. NIFA’s integrated research, education, and extension programs support the best and brightest scientists and extension personnel whose work results 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, sign up for email updates or follow us on Twitter @USDA_NIFA#NIFAImpacts.