MSU researchers earn $7.7 million in specialty crop grants from USDA

posted on October 6, 2014 12:39pm

Three Michigan State University AgBioResearch scientists have netted more than $7.7 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture to address the critical needs of the specialty crop industry through research and education.

The MSU projects are among $51 million in Specialty Crop Research Initiative grants announced by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack today. Specialty crops are defined as fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture. Twenty-three such grants were awarded to 14 states with MSU receiving the highest amount of all universities.

“Specialty crops play a significant role in Michigan agriculture, and these growers and producers have come to depend on the research from MSU,” said Douglas Buhler, MSU AgBioResearch director and College of Agriculture and Natural Resources associate dean. “These grants will go a long way in helping improve food production and food quality within our state and beyond.”

The MSU projects include:

  • Optimizing protective culture environments for berry     crops – This $2.5-million project, led by MSU horticulturist Eric Hanson, will provide raspberry and strawberry growers with the knowledge base needed to select protective structures and plastics that optimize     productivity and pest management, while increasing profits and minimizing the generation of plastic waste.
  • RosBreed: Combining disease resistance with horticultural quality in new rosaceous cultivars - $1,802,113 for the first year of a  $10 million five-year project. This project, led by MSU plant breeder and geneticist Amy Iezzoni, will assist U.S. Rosaceae crop breeding programs to more efficiently, accurately, creatively and rapidly deliver new varieties with market-essential horticultural quality and     producer-required disease resistance.
  • Developing sustainable pollination strategies for U.S. specialty crops – This $3.5-million project, led by MSU entomologist Rufus Isaacs, will develop region- and crop-specific Integrated Crop     Pollination management approaches to diversify pollination sources and maintain consistent crop yields. (This project was announced in August.)

“The specialty crop industry has seen a surge both domestically and internationally,” said Sonny Ramaswamy, NIFA director. “In order to provide the highest quality horticultural products, growers need sound science and technology to make informed decisions and stay profitable. These grants help address these needs by providing specialty crop producers with the information and tools they need to successfully grow, process and market safe and high-quality products.”