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National Institute of Food and Ag Invests in Exploratory Research
USAgNet - 03/13/2018

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) awarded grants to support the initial development of innovative ideas in agriculture and food production through the Exploratory Research Grants (ERG) program. Funding is made possible through NIFA's Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) program, authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.

The ERG program fosters the creation of transformative innovations that address plant and animal health and production, food safety and nutrition, bioenergy, natural resources and environment, agriculture systems, technology, agricultural economics and rural communities. AFRI is America's flagship competitive grants program for foundational and translational research, education, and extension projects in the food and agricultural sciences.

"We have made tremendous strides with conventional agricultural practices," said NIFA Director Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy. "However, with an expected population growth of more than 9 billion by 2050, progressive, high-yielding innovations are necessary in order to ensure food production and security for a growing population."

There are 27 grants totaling $2.6 million funded through the ERG program for fiscal years 2016 and 2017. They include a project at the University of Florida that tackled the urgent need to determine the frequency of Zika virus infection in wild-caught mosquitoes in Haiti, generating information that can help efforts to control the spread of Zika from insects to humans in Florida and other Southern states. Through another grant, Middle Tennessee State University explored an alternative approach to sustainable bioenergy and renewable energy by using food-industry wastes to grow microorganisms that produce the lipid precursors of biodiesel.

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