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USDA Awards More Than $46 Million for Specialty Crop Research and Extension

Media Contact: Jennifer Martin, (202) 720-8188

WASHINGTON, Nov. 18, 2009 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that USDA has awarded more than $46 million through the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) to solve critical specialty crop agriculture issues, address priorities and solve problems through multifunctional research and extension. 

“Specialty crops are an important part of American agriculture, valued at nearly $50 billion every year,” Vilsack said.  “This significant investment into research, education and extension will enable specialty crop producers to improve their products and increase their profitability.”

The Specialty Crop Research Initiative was established by the 2008 Farm Bill to support the specialty crop industry by developing and disseminating science-based tools to address the needs of specific crops in five focus areas: 1) improve crop characteristics through plant breeding, genetics and genomics; 2) address threats from pests and diseases; 3) improve production efficiency, productivity and profitability; 4) develop new innovations and technologies and 5) develop methods to improve food safety. Each of the focus areas received at least 10 percent of the available funds. The majority of the funded projects address two or more focus areas.

The projects funded in 2009 address research and extension needs for crops that span the entire spectrum of specialty crops production, from studying invasive mealy bug pests in west coast vineyards to developing biodegradable mulches for specialty crops produced under protective covers. Major projects were also funded to protect important specialty crops from invasive pests and to develop improved varieties.

Although 20 institutions will manage the research/extension grant funds from this program, each award includes an average of 8 principal investigators from three other states who will work together in a multi-disciplinary approach to solve problems. All of the awards required 100 percent matching funds from non-federal sources which will double the impact of the award dollars.
Fiscal Year 2009 SCRI research and extension grants were awarded to:

  • University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Ark., $1,463,234
    Management of Virus Complexes in Rubus

  • University of California, Davis, Calif., $3,965,999
    Increasing Consumption of Specialty Crops by Enhancing their Quality and Safety

  • University of California,  Berkeley, Calif., $1,957,835
    An Invasive Mealybug Pest and an Emerging Viral Disease: a Dangerous Mix for West Coast Vineyards

  • University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla., $1,894,904
    A Multi-disciplinary Approach to Sustainability and Profitability of U.S. Blueberry Production Using the Tree-like Species Vaccinium arboreum

  • University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla., $1,967,863
    Laurel Wilt of Avocado: Mitigation and Management of an Exotic, Insect-vectored Disease

  • University of Georgia, Athens, Ga., $774,581
    Advancing Onion Postharvest Handling Efficiency and Sustainability by Multimodal Quality Sensing, Disease Control and Waste Stream Management

  • University of Illinois, Urbana, Ill., $1,951,981
    Integrated Genomics and Management Systems for Control of Fire Blight

  • Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, La., $2,841,987
    Participatory Modeling and Decision Support for Improving Sweet Potato Production Efficiency, Quality and Food Safety

  • Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, La., $518,749
    Development of an eXtension Community of Practice - All About Blueberries

  • University of Maryland, College Park, Md., $5,161,495
    Precision Irrigation and Nutrient Management for Nursery, Greenhouse and Green Roof Systems: Wireless Sensor Networks for Feedback and Feedforward Control

  • University of Maine, Bangor, Maine, $1,023,805
    Systems Approach to Improving the Sustainability of Wild Blueberry Production

  • Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich., $1,831,469
    RosBREED-Enabling Marker-assisted Breeding in Rosaceae

  • Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey,  New Brunswick, N.J., $1,503,166
    Locally Grown Ethnic Greens & Herbs: Demand Assessment and Production Opportunities

  • USDA Agricultural Research Service, Ithaca, N.Y., $2,381,759
    Development of Comprehensive Strategies to Manage Potato Virus Y in Potato and Eradicate the Tuber Necrotic Variants Recently Introduced into the United States

  • USDA Agricultural Research Service, Wooster, Ohio, $1,826,298
    Intelligent Spray Systems for Floral and Ornamental Nursery Crops

  • Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Okla., $422,964
    Development of a Grape Community of Practice for the eXtension System

  • Oregon State University, Corvallis, Ore., $1,392,933
    Expansion of Hazelnut Production, Feedstock and Biofuel Potential through Breeding for Disease Resistance and Climatic Adaption

  • Texas AgriLife, College Station, Texas, $3,900,889
    Management of Zebra Chip to Enhance Profitability and Sustainability of U.S. Potato Production

  • Washington State University, Pullman, Wash., $3,891,952
    A Total Systems Approach to Developing a Sustainable Stem-free Sweet Cherry Production, Processing and Marketing System

  • Washington State University, Pullman, Wash., $1,821,721
    Agronomic and Biochemical Impacts of Biotic and Abiotic Stress on Pacific Northwest Flavor Crops

  • Washington State University, Pullman, Wash., $1,999,002
    Biodegradable Mulches for Specialty Crops Produced Under Protective Covers

  • Washington State University, Pullman, Wash., $474,115
    Tree Fruit GDR: Translating Genomics into Advances in Horticulture

  • USDA Agricultural Research Service, Kearneysville, W.V., $637,330
    FasTrack a Revolutionary Approach to Long Generation Cycle Specialty Crop Breeding

  • USDA Agricultural Research Service, Kearneysville,  W.V., $559,531
    Manipulating Host- and Mate-finding Behavior of Plum Curculio: Development of a Multi-life Stage Management Strategy for a Key Fruit Pest


The 2009 awards included a group of planning grants that will enable awardees to develop quality proposals for future SCRI funding opportunities. The FY 2009 planning grants were awarded to:

  • Colorado State University, Ft. Collins, Colo., $49,949
    Planning Grant to Document the Health-promoting Properties of Dry Beans and to Increase Consumption in the United States

  • University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla., $23,126
    Improving Profitability of Blueberry Production with a Comprehensive Precision Agriculture Program

  • Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich., $22,903
    Limiting Bird Damage to Fruit Crops: A Planning Program to Identify Research Directions for the Future

  • Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., $50,000
    Establishing a Broccoli Industry in the Eastern United States

  • Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., $50,000
    Planning to Expand the New Knowledge Fusion Model: Spurring Innovations for Specialty Crops

  • Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., $49,979
    Addressing Research and Extension Needs of the Emerging Cold-climate Wine Industry in the Northeast and Upper Midwest

  • Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., $47,297
    Developing a Team to Address Major Viticultural, Enological and Market Driven Challenges to a Strong and Sustainable Eastern Wine Industry

  • The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, $49,966
    Identifying Stakeholder Needs for Establishing Urban Specialty Crops Enterprise

  • Clemson University, Clemson, S.C., $48,947
    Bridging Specialty Crop Producers and Institutional Food Purchasers: Distilling a Research and Extension Agenda in Support of Local Food Systems

  • Washington State University, Pullman, Wash., $49,479
    Placing Fruit Canopy Management Automation Technology in the Field

  • Washington State University, Pullman, Wash., $46,146
    Development of a Smart Targeted Spray Application Technology Roadmap for Specialty Crops


Through federal funding and leadership for research, education and extension programs, NIFA focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people's daily lives and the nation's future.  For more information, visit


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