Land-grant universities and colleges in 19 states received Specialty Crop Research Initiative grants totaling $46 million. Research facilities in Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania were among them.
In making the announcement, USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan said "Specialty crops producers in the United States – as with all of American agriculture – are seeing sales surge both domestically and abroad as consumers search for high quality, 'Grown in America' fruits, vegetables and tree nuts."
Specialty crops, as defined by law, are fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits. horticultural and nursery crops, plus floriculture. These projects, she noted, will help provide specialty crops producers with the information and tools they need to successfully grow, process and market safe and high quality products.
"That means more jobs and opportunities for Americans working in specialty crops. From herbs to apples, from walnuts to grapes, specialty crops are central to the richness of American agriculture."
The projects funded address research and extension needs for crops that span the entire spectrum of specialty crops production, from researching plant genetics to improving crop characteristics; identifying and addressing threats from pests and diseases; improving production and profitability; developing new production innovations and technologies; and developing methods to respond to food safety hazards.
While Michigan State University garnered the most grant money -- $7.71 million – for four projects involving fruits and floriculture, USDA's Ag Research Service received the largest single grant – more than $5.7 million. Here's a quick look at the projects funded in the Northeast states:
University of Maryland, College Park, Md., $1,861,387: Develop models to predict the potential for food-borne disease epidemics.
University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Mass., $3,318,651: Research diverse pollination methods to insure the long-term profitability of Northeast fruit and vegetable production.
Rutgers University, New Brunswick, N.J., $1,866,558: In collaboration with commercial basil growers, seed companies and buyers and distributors of basil, this project will identify and develop improved basil varieties with resistance/tolerance to downy mildew, Fusarium wilt and chilling-injury.
Cornell University, Geneva, N.Y., $2,511,333: Address production and marketing constraints hindering the profitability and sustainability of emerging cold climate grape and wine industries in the Upper Midwest and Northeast.
Cornell University, Geneva, N.Y., $2,091,357: Accelerate grape cultivar improvement by developing improved genetic technologies; Improve communication between the science and grape industry communities.
Saint Joseph's University, Philadelphia, Pa., $322,202: Improve long-term viability of the fresh U.S.-grown mushroom industry by marketing mushrooms as an excellent source of Vitamin D.USDA Agricultural Research Service, Wyndmoor, Pa., $5,739,966: Develop economically and environmentally sustainable pest management practices for the brown marmorated stink bug.