U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Under Secretary Scott Hutchins announced recently that the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has invested $11 million in research that will support specialty crop farmers.
“This collaborative public-private research effort will focus on applying innovative solutions to pest management problems that often are otherwise not available to specialty crop farmers,” said Hutchins, who leads USDA’s Research, Education and Economics (REE) mission area. “Practical and economic crop management solutions may make all the difference between thriving and just surviving financially during the growing season.”
This investment is made through the Minor Crop Pest Management Program (known as the Interregional Research Project, IR-4). The IR-4 program enables crop protection technology often designed for field crops, but equally safe, effective and economical for growers of minor/specialty crops—including fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops (including floriculture) – to be evaluated and registered for use.
As part of this funding investment, four universities across different U.S. growing regions will lead regional IR-4 programs that will generate additional data for registration of conventional and bio-based crop protection technology for specialty and minor crops in the United States. These efforts require effective collaborations among grower organizations, federal agencies, the private sector, and land-grant colleges and universities.
NIFA’s Pest Management Programs invest in research that supports integrated pest management strategies, including coordinating the use of pest biology, environmental information, and available technology to prevent unacceptable levels of pest damage by the most economical means, while minimizing risk to people, property, resources, and the environment.
A 2017 Michigan State University Center for Economic Analysis study concluded that “IR-4’s partnership with agriculture has contributed to 95,261 jobs with a total labor income of $5.6 billion, and annual contributions to the gross domestic product totaling about $9.4 billion.”
A list of the four universities (five awards total) and their research projects is available on the NIFA website.