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USDA Awards Grant to Michigan State University to Study Pollination Solutions for Specialty Crops

Media Contact: Jennifer Martin (202) 720-8188
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WASHINGTON, Aug. 6, 2014 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) today announced a $6.9 million grant to Michigan State University (MSU) to develop sustainable pollination strategies for specialty crops in the United States. The grant was funded through the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI), which is authorized by the Agricultural Act of 2014 (Farm Bill). Supporting this research will be a major contribution to achieving the goals of the Presidential Memo on pollinators and pollinators’ health. 

USDA is focused on halting the decline in bee populations.  Working with our research partners to address this threat to our nation’s long term agricultural productivity, USDA is actively engaged on strengthening pollinators’ health in recognition of the important link between the health of American agriculture and the health of honeybees.

“Pollination is critical to the production of the fruits, vegetables and nuts that are part of a healthy diet,” said Sonny Ramaswamy, NIFA director. “With the recent declines in pollinator numbers, especially honeybees, this grant is extremely important for the profitability of the specialty crop industry, which adds more than $50 billion to our nation’s economy every year. The research and outreach efforts being supported by this grant will provide growers with information on pollination, pollinators, and management practices that will keep their crops productive year after year.”

The goal of the project, led by Rufus Isaacs at MSU, is to develop and deliver context-specific Integrated Crop Pollination (ICP) recommendations on how to most effectively harness native bees’ potential for crop pollination. Context-specific ICP strategies will improve sustainability of U.S. specialty crops and help ensure the continued ability of growers to reap profitable returns from their investments in land, plants, and other production inputs. ICP is defined as the combined use of different pollinator species, habitat augmentation, and crop management practices to provide reliable and economical pollination of crops.

The project team is working to accomplish the following objectives:

  • Identify economically-valuable pollinators and the factors affecting their abundance.
  • Develop habitat management practices to improve crop pollination.
  • Determine performance of alternative managed bees as specialty crop pollinators.
  • Demonstrate and deliver ICP practices to specialty crops growers.
  • Determine optimal methods for ICP information delivery and measure ICP adoption.
  • Analyze economics and modeling of pollination ecosystem services.

 

MSU will receive $3.4 million is fiscal year 2014, and subsequent payments in fiscal years 2015 and 2016 are dependent on available funding and demonstration of meeting the project’s goals. MSU first received a SCRI grant for $1.7 million to begin this work in fiscal year 2012, the final year of the 2008 Farm Bill, bringing the total investment to $8.6 million. This grant will continue and build upon that research to ensure that specialty crop growers are better able to manage pollinators for improved crop yields.

MSU’s team includes scientists from Loyola University, Franklin and Marshall College, Utah State University, University of Vermont, The Xerces Society, the University of California-Davis and the USDA Agricultural Research Service.

The Farm Bill authorized SCRI at $80 million in fiscal year 2014 to address the critical needs of the specialty crop industry by awarding grants to support research and extension that address key challenges of national, regional and multi-state importance in sustaining all components of food and agriculture, including conventional and organic food production systems. Each year, NIFA will set aside $25 million of SCRI funding for the Citrus Disease Research and Extension Program.

Today’s announcement was authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. The Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past five years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill.

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 www.nifa.usda.gov.

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