researchers recently were among the most successful nationwide in winning competitive grants—receiving more than $3.3 million—through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new Specialty Crop Research Initiative.
The grants will fund a variety of studies, including how plant nutrients affect white wine quality, new ways of thinning tree fruit, integrated pest management systems that allow farmers to use fewer pesticides, and the development of new fabric-based, degradable mulches for use as crop cover. Altogether, WSU researchers received nearly 12 percent of the funding available from the $28 million USDA program.
First research funds just for 'specialty crops'
The new federal initiative targets research funding to “specialty crops,” which include fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops. Designated research funds had not previously been available for these crops, unlike the long-established programs for commodity crops such as wheat, corn, and soybeans.
“In a state as agriculturally diverse as Washington,” said Ralph Cavalieri, associate dean and director of WSU’s Agricultural Research Center, “this kind of targeted grant program is exactly what is needed to ensure specialty crop growers have the same scientific research support as other agricultural producers.”
From crop covers to wine quality
Specifically, the grants will fund the following WSU projects:
Entomologist Vince Jones and a team comprised of Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center Director Jay Brunner, Extension specialist Elizabeth Beers, economist Karina Gallardo, and sociologist Jessica Goldberger will receive $2.24 million to enhance biological controls to stabilize western orchard integrated pest management systems
Plant pathologist Debra Inglis along with fabric scientist Karen Leonas and Carol Miles from the horticulture department will receive nearly $99,000 to develop degradable mulches for use as specialty crop covers...