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Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Interagency Programs


Carbon Cycle Science

The carbon cycle is in a unique position: it plays a fundamental role in the forces that drive global climate change, while simultaneously being impacted by a changing climate. This program is offered in partnership with National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) 2013 Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences (ROSES), the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, and the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration. The program contributes toward the goals of the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) and its Carbon Cycle Science Program by providing critical scientific information about the movement of carbon in the environment and potential near- and long-term changes in the carbon cycle, including the role of and implications for societal actions. It follows from three previous joint USDA-NASA solicitations in 2004, 2007, and 2010, and addresses questions of carbon stocks and fluxes, how carbon cycling might change and be managed in response to a changing climate, and the risks and benefits to society of management and adaptation options. Submit applications through the NASA.                

Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases

As a collaborative interagency effort, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the U.K. Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) request applications for the Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases (EEID) Program for fiscal year (FY) 2012.  The amount available for support of this program in FY 2012 will be approximately $15 million, pending availability of funds. This interagency program announcement solicits applications that support research on the ecological, evolutionary, and socio-ecological principles and processes that regulate the transmission dynamics of infectious diseases.

The program's focus is on both the discovery, and the building and testing models that elucidate these principles and processes. Research proposals should focus on understanding the determinants of transmission of diseases to humans, non-human animals (including species of agricultural relevance such as ruminants, swine, poultry, equine, aquacultured species), or plants; the spread of pathogens by environmental factors, vectors or abiotic agents; the population dynamics and genetics of reservoir species or alternate hosts; or the cultural, social, behavioral, and economic dimensions of disease transmission. Research may be on zoonotic, environmentally-borne, vector-borne, or enteric diseases of either terrestrial, freshwater, or marine systems and organisms, including diseases of non-human animals and plants, at any scale from specific pathogens to inclusive environmental systems. Proposals for research on disease systems of public health concern to developing countries are encouraged, as are disease systems of concern in agricultural and coastal marine systems. Investigators are encouraged to include links to the public health research community, including for example, participation of epidemiologists, physicians, veterinarians, food scientists, social scientists, entomologists, pathologists, virologists, or parasitologists.

Eligible entities for USDA/NIFA awards include, (1) State agricultural experiment stations; (2) colleges and universities (including junior colleges offering associate degrees or higher); (3) university research foundations; (4) other research institutions and organizations; (5) Federal agencies, (6) national laboratories; (7) private organizations or corporations; (8) individuals who are U.S. citizens, nationals, or permanent residents; and (9) any group consisting of 2 or more entities identified in (1) through (8). Eligible institutions do not include foreign and international organizations. While proposals may be submitted by Federal Agencies or State Agricultural Experiment Stations, such proposals would be eligible for funding only by the USDA.  Faculty at small and mid-sized academic institutions with limited institutional success and faculty at institutions in USDA Experimental Program for Stimulating Competitive Research (EPSCoR) entities are encouraged to apply.

National Robotics Initiative

The goal of the National Robotics Initiative is to accelerate the development and use of robots in the United States that work beside, or cooperatively with, people. Innovative robotics research and applications emphasizing the realization of such co-robots acting in direct support of and in a symbiotic relationship with a human is supported by multiple agencies of the federal government including the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and others. The purpose of this program is the development of this next generation of robotics, to advance the capability and usability of such systems and artifacts, and to encourage existing and new communities to focus on innovative application areas.


Plant Feedstock Genomics for Bioenergy

The goal of the Plant Feedstock Genomics for Bioenergy solicitation is to support fundamental research on biomass genomics and provide the scientific foundation to facilitate use of lignocellulosic materials—i.e., nonfood plant fiber—for bioenergy and biofuels. The program is supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and emphasizes research on perennials, including trees and various grasses that can be developed as dedicated bioenergy feedstocks. Combining DOE’s leadership in genome-scale technologies with USDA’s long experience in crop improvement will help accelerate development of such specialized crops and improve their effectiveness as feedstocks for biofuels production.

Specific areas of interest include:  (1) Phenotyping plant germplasm collections and advanced breeding lines in public breeding programs of bioenergy crops (energy cane, Miscanthus, sorghum, switchgrass, Populus) to discover and deploy valuable alleles for bioenergy traits such as:  biomass yield, quantity and quality of key metabolites (sugars, starches, lignocelluloses);  adaptation to temperature extremes, drought (water use efficiency), salinity, and nitrogen use efficiency. (2) Fundamental research to enhance translation of genomics information into cultivar improvement (“phenomics”) utilizing candidate bioenergy crops, specifically perennial grasses and woody biomass crops, for which genomic resources are available or are currently being developed to include: genotype-to-phenotype: functionality determination and confirmation of candidate bioenergy-relevant genes (biomass yield, quantity, and quality; environmental adaptation); systems biology approaches, including integration of complex data, to predict phenotype from genotype (e.g., reconstruction of metabolic pathways and regulatory networks relevant to bioenergy traits). 

Water Sustainability and Climate

The goal of the Water Sustainability and Climate (WSC) solicitation is to understand and predict the interactions between the water system and climate change, land use (including agriculture, managed forest and rangeland systems), the built environment, and ecosystem function and services through place-based research and integrative models. Studies of the water system using models and/or observations at specific sites singly or in combination that allow for spatial and temporal extrapolation to other regions, as well as integration across the different processes in that system are encouraged, especially to the extent that they advance the development of theoretical frameworks and predictive understanding.