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USDA Grants Invest in Specialty Crop Research and Education Activities

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

WASHINGTON, Oct. 25, 2010 – Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan today announced 28 grants to solve specialty crop agriculture issues through research and extension activities through USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

“The specialty crop industry plays an enormously important part in American agriculture and is valued at approximately $50 billion every year,” said Merrigan. “These projects will help provide specialty crop producers with the information and tools they need to successfully grow, process, and market safe and high quality products.”

NIFA awarded more than $46 million through the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI), which 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. Specialty crops are defined in law as “fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture.” Funded projects address 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.

SCRI gives priority to projects that are multistate, multi-institutional or trans-disciplinary; and include explicit mechanisms to communicate results to producers and the public. Each of the focus areas received at least 10 percent of the available funds. The majority of funded projects address two or more focus areas, and include many collaborating institutions in addition to the awardee.

The projects funded address research and extension needs for crops that span the entire spectrum of specialty crops production, from studying microbial threats to greenhouse tomatoes to assessing grower needs and market potential of berry crops. Major projects were also funded to study the genetics of lettuce breeding and to improve grape and wine quality.

Fiscal Year 2010 SCRI research and extension grants were awarded to:

  • Auburn University, Auburn, Ala., $604,771
  • Arizona State University, Tempe, Ariz., $312,471
  • USDA Agricultural Research Service, Albany, Calif., $2,641,480
  • University of California, Davis, Calif., $2,590,885
  • University of California, Davis, Calif., $2,518,477
  • University of California, Davis, Calif., $ 1,549,473
  • Colorado State University, Ft. Collins, Colo., $2,467,589
  • University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla., $2,939,056
  • University of Illinois, Urbana, Ill., $1,548,793
  • Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind., $2,441,298
  • USDA Agricultural Research Service, Beltsville, Md., $1,697,509
  • Michigan State University, Lansing, Mich., $46,050
  • University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minn., $496,663
  • USDA Agricultural Research Service, Geneva, N.Y., $49,316
  • Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., $3,172,100
  • Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., $50,000
  • Northern Marianas College, Susupe, Northern Mariana Islands, $28,629
  • Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, $2,037,717
  • Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Okla., $30,000
  • Oregon State University, Corvallis, Ore., $5,758,980
  • Oregon State University, Corvallis, Ore., $50,000
  • Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pa., $1,338,438
  • Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pa., $50,000
  • University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tenn., $50,000
  • Texas AgriLife Research, College Station, Texas, $3,802,678
  • Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Va., $3,796,693
  • Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Va., $2,729,649
  • USDA Agricultural Research Service, Wenatchee, Wash., $1,483,438


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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