USDA this week awarded $9.98 million to 14 collaborative, multi-state projects impacting 28 states to enhance the competitiveness of U.S. specialty crops.
“The specialty crop industry faces unique challenges, and with funding from the Specialty Crop Multi-State program, USDA provides resources for recipients to work across state lines to find innovative, research-based solutions that address problems at both the regional and national levels,” said USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Jenny Lester Moffitt.
“This year's funded projects will address of a range of those challenges, from energy and water saving in vine plants, finding cost-effective solutions for heat tolerance and drought, to addressing food safety risks for produce.”
This year’s projects include:
- The California Department of Food and Agriculture’s collaboration with Washington, Oregon, California, Michigan, and Vermont along with primary blueberry researchers and extension professionals will create a user-friendly tool to optimize plant mixes that decrease pests and support habitat creation in blueberries to increase pollination.
- The University of Georgia Research Foundation Inc. will collaborate with Florida, Georgia, and Alabama to address risks tied to bioaerosols from poultry and cattle production on adjacent property, which has impacted foodborne illness outbreaks in fresh produce.
- The University of Iowa and Montana State University will collaborate to investigate a series of new fertilizer additives to improve the performance of sweet corn, seed potatoes and radishes, making them resistant to heat and drought stress and improving harvest yields.
- The Boston Area Gleaners Inc.’s collaboration in six New England states will increase access to the Boston market and reduce distribution cost through logistical efficiencies. This network will increase the volume of regional produce to consumers in eastern Massachusetts and connect food businesses across New England.
- Mississippi State University will collaborate with North Carolina and Louisiana to address postharvest quality evaluation, grading and sorting of sweet-potato storage roots in these three major sweet-potato producing states.
- The South Carolina Department of Agriculture will collaborate with entities in Georgia and Alabama to develop and provide holistic fertilization guidelines to the stone tree fruit industry to understand the influence of orchard-specific characteristics on tree nutrient dynamics.
- The Washington State Department of Agriculture’s collaboration with Washington State University, Oregon State University, and USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) addresses climate change that threatens food security and has impacted global food production. Benefits will include information on cost-effective technologies to avoid or reduce the impacts of extreme heat, knowledge of physiological and genetic mechanisms that contribute to heat tolerance.
- The Texas Department of Agriculture will collaborate with entities in Kansas and Indiana to study and disseminate a clear set of sod production and lawn management guidelines for improved, low-input zoysiagrass cultivars with valued attributes for consumers.
The funding is made possible through the Specialty Crop Multi-State Program (SCMP), reauthorized by the 2018 Farm Bill. SCMP strengthens food safety; seeks new ways to address plant pests, disease and other crop-specific issues; and increases marketing opportunities for specialty crops—fruits, vegetables, tree nuts and dried fruits to horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture.
A full list of grant recipients and their project descriptions is available on the SCMP webpage.