USDA awards grants to address impact of climate change on ag

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Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) awarded $6 million to 10 universities to study the effects of climate on agriculture production and develop strategies to provide farmers and ranchers with the solutions they need to supply the nation with quality food. Vilsack made the announcement during remarks at "The Frontier of Climate Change: State and Local Action in the Heartland" conference held at Drake University.

"With longer growing seasons and an increased number of extreme weather events, climate-related changes are increasingly posing new challenges and risks for America's producers," said Vilsack. "Every day, farmers and ranchers see the impact that changes in climate patterns have on their operations, and they are contending with drought, floods or extreme temperatures. The discoveries these grants will lead to will be invaluable for American farmers whose livelihoods directly depend on the nation's land and water resources."

NIFA made the awards through its Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) funding opportunity in the Climate Variability and Change challenge area. NIFA's climate work is focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing carbon sequestration in agricultural and forest production systems and preparing the nation's agriculture and forests to adapt to changing climates.

The fiscal year 2013 awards announced today include:

  • University of Colorado, Boulder, Colo., $900,000 - This study will provide an integrated social and biophysical assessment of vulnerability and adaptation to climate change and variability in the Blue Mountains ecoregion of Oregon.
  • Florida International University, Miami, Fla., $250,000 – This project will study the mechanism of Ochratoxin-A toxicity in wine-musts (freshly pressed grape juice for wine making) which is predicted to intensify in winemaking regions because of the increased prevalence of the toxin producing fungi in warmer climates, and create an inexpensive and simple method of detoxification.
  • Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, $550,000 - The goal of this research is to examine factors that either facilitate or hinder climate adaptation, while assessing the role of human-made infrastructure and policies that protect natural resources, grassland and wetlands. .
  • Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich., $975,000 – This project will seek to define the effects of hot and cold temperatures on turkey growth and development and develop management practices to mitigate these effects.
  • University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minn., $25,000 – This is a conference grant to support the National Extension Climate Science Initiative Conference, which will empower Extension professionals and collaborators with the latest in climate science research and delivery methods.
  • Montana State University, Bozeman, Mont., $800,000 – This project will determine what effects a climate-induced rise in water temperature will have on rainbow trout gut microbial communities and fish metabolism.
  • Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., $600,000 – This project will evaluate the resiliency of rice production with increasing climate uncertainty by developing models integrating historical rice yield data at the county and farm level, weather variables, and genotypic parameters.
  • Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Okla., $1,000,000 - The project will provide some of the first climate adaptation tools for beef production systems in the form of water management resources and lead to the development of beef cattle that are adaptable to climate change induced drought.
  • Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pa., $750,000 – This project aims to strengthen farm operators' capacity to manage cropping system's adaptation to climate change by providing real time online decision making tools.
  • West Virginia University, Morgantown, W.V., $150,000 – This project will study the effect of climate change on interactions among solitary pollinator bees, bee parasites and crops.

AFRI is NIFA's flagship competitive grant program established under the 2008 Farm Bill and supports work in six priority areas: 1) plant health and production and plant products; 2) animal health and production and animal products; 3) food safety, nutrition and health; 4) renewable energy, natural resources and environment; 5) agriculture systems and technology; and 6) agriculture economics and rural communities.

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. More information is available at: www.nifa.usda.gov.


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