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Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research Awards $7 Million to 16 Research Teams Advancing Science and Technology to Improve Pollinator Health

Posted: March 14, 2018

New Tools and Science-Based Best Practices Will Enhance Efforts to Combat Native and Managed Pollinator Population Declines
Geoffrey Williams, Ph.D., Auburn University assistant professor of entomology and plant biology, is leading a FFAR Pollinator Health Fund grant to study the interactions between two causes of honey bee decline: pesticides and Varroa mites.

Geoffrey Williams, Ph.D., Auburn University assistant professor of entomology and plant biology, is leading a FFAR Pollinator Health Fund grant to study the interactions between two causes of honey bee decline: pesticides and Varroa mites.

The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, a nonprofit established through bipartisan congressional support in the 2014 Farm Bill, today announced 16 grants totaling $7 million for research to address declining pollinator health, an ongoing threat to agricultural productivity in the United States. The FFAR awards are matched by more than 50 companies, universities, organizations and individuals for a total investment of $14.3 million toward research and technology development.

Insect pollinators support crop yields and agricultural ecosystems and contribute an estimated 24 billion dollars to the United States economy annually. New technology, knowledge and best practice guidance tailored to specific regions and land uses has potential to accelerate efforts to improve pollinator health across the United States. Researchers funded through the Pollinator Health Fund are working to address social and economic challenges faced by beekeepers, farmers, home owners and other land managers across the United States.

"Declines in native and managed insect pollinator populations threaten both the agricultural systems that sustain us and the ecosystems that surround us," said Sally Rockey, Ph.D., executive director of FFAR. "The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research is pleased to support these 16 research teams who will bring new scientific rigor, best practices and technology to current efforts toward improving pollinator health in the United States."

The following Principle Investigators are leading research projects supported by the Pollinator Health Fund. Grants were awarded to successful applications to a competitive call for proposals in which applicants were required to secure funding to match the FFAR grant.

  • Kristen Baum, Ph.D., Oklahoma State University, is working with collaborators to investigate how floral choice, nutrition, and agrochemicals influence the health of native bees and honey bees across land uses in the Southern Great Plains witha $233,708 FFAR grant.
  • Steven Cook, Ph.D., U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service, is collaborating with multiple stakeholder groups to develop and test novel controls for the parasitic mite Varroa destructor, an ongoing threat to honey bee colonies, with a $ 475,559 FFAR grant.                    
  • Margaret Couvillon, Ph.D., Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, is examiningpollinator behavior in different landscapes to determine where and when planting supplemental forage could have the most positive effect on pollinator nutrition with a $614,067 FFAR grant.
  • Sandra DeBano, Ph.D., Oregon State University, is researching the impact of livestock grazing, invasive weeds and the fires used to control those weeds on native bees inhabiting range and pasturelands with a $321,127 FFAR grant.
  • Deborah Finke, Ph.D, University of Missouri, is developing best seed planting practices to improve bumble bee and monarch habitat and collaborating with the Missouri Department of Conservation and other state organizations to share guidance with homeowners, landowners, farmers and agricultural consultants with a $353,044 FFAR grant.
  • Timothy Gibb, Ph.D., Purdue University, is developing public school curricula and training high school students and teachers to catalyze pollinator protection action in their communities with a $297,499 FFAR grant.
  • Christina Gorzinger, Ph.D., The Pennsylvania State University, is leading a team of researchers from Penn State, University of Minnesota, University of California, Davis, and Dickinson College to develop online decision support tools to help beekeepers, growers, plant producers, land managers and gardeners better select and manage diverse landscapes to promote healthy managed and wild bee populations with a $1,177,137 FFAR grant.
  • Andony Melathopoulos, Ph.D., Oregon State University, is conducting research and outreach to develop, implement and evaluate crop-specific best practices that meet the unique agronomic challenges for managing pollinator populations in the Pacific Northwest with a $544,929 FFAR grant.
  • Lisa Schulte Moore, Ph.D., Iowa State University of Science and Technology, is leading an interdisciplinary research team to study whether integrating strips of prairie habitat in crop fields might improve managed and native pollinator health with a $503,028 FFAR grant.
  • Lauren Ponisio, Ph.D., University of California, Riverside, is measuring the effectiveness of recommended almond orchard management practices in reducing the negative impacts of pesticides, parasites and inadequate nutrition on crop pollinators with a $490,355 FFAR grant.
  • Sandra Rehan, Ph.D., University of New Hampshire, is training scientists and developing new educational resources for identification of New England wild bees and region-specific habitat planting recommendations with a $546,511 FFAR grant.
  • Clare Rittschof, Ph.D., University of Kentucky, is researching whethercover cropping practices that allow for winter weed growth can enhance pollinator habitat on agricultural land with a $120,900 FFAR grant.      
  • Arathi Seshadri, Ph.D., Colorado State University, is working to arm Colorado beekeepers with new knowledge to support pollinator health by studying the impact of phytochemicals, nutritional diversity and metabolic capacity on honeybee health with a $488,000 FFAR grant.
  • Barbara Sharanowski, Ph.D., University of Central Florida, is engaging citizens across the country to plant native wildflowers in their yards and collect pollinator population data using a mobile app with a $338,613 FFAR grant.
  • David Tarpy, Ph.D., North Carolina State University, is investigating the impact of pesticide exposure on honeybee colony disease prevalence and reproductive potential with a $217,000 FFAR grant.
  • Geoffrey Williams, Ph.D., Auburn University, is studying the interactions between pesticides and Varroa mites, and whether beekeepers can take advantage of honey bee mating behavior to improve resistance to pesticides, with a $283,000 FFAR grant.

To learn more about the FFAR Pollinator Health Fund and these research projects, please visit their website.