Patch and Grozinger are part of a nationwide team awarded $2.85 million from the USDA-SCRI program to study pollinator interactions with ornamental plant species

Posted: September 7, 2016

On Tuesday August 2, 2016, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced this year's Specialty Crop Research and Extension Investments (SCRI) funded projects. These grants are funded through the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). IR-4's Executive Director, Jerry Baron, is proud to announce that two of these projects were awarded to IR-4's Ornamental Horticulture Program based at Rutgers University.

The first project is titled, " Protecting Pollinators with Economically Feasible and Environmentally Sound Ornamental Horticulture". This 5-year grant, which is funded for the first two years at $2,849,975, will support 21 scientists and extension experts at 12 different institutions*. Working with this team, IR-4's Ornamental Horticulture Manager, Cristi Palmer, developed the project's 5 objectives:

  1. identify pollinator attractiveness of top selling crops,
  2. fill specific regulatory data gaps for pollinator risk assessment of
  3. systemic insecticide residues within ornamental horticulture crops,
  4. compare current pest management practices with alternative strategies,
  5. provide guidance to growers and landscape managers with updated Best
  6. Management Practices, and
  7. develop outreach tools for multiple stakeholder audiences.

Ultimately, this coordinated project will aid in reaching the President's goal of restoring or enhancing 7 million acres of pollinator habitat by providing growers and landscape managers the knowledge to address pests while producing high quality plants for pollinator forage.

IR-4 was also awarded a grant for $50,000 for "Identifying Knowledge Gaps and Novel Management Strategies for Downy Mildews Impacting Environmental Horticulture Crops". Environmental horticulture crops (EHCs) are one of the highest value-per-acre specialty crop industries in US agriculture. These crops provide thousands of jobs and generates $20.34 billion to annual US GDP. EHCs are plants placed into residential and commercial landscapes, interiorscapes, arboreta, parks, sports fields and recreational areas. EHCs are increasingly threatened by outbreaks of downy mildew (DM) diseases. The production of several high value EHCs is currently at risk due to this disease. This project will gather researchers, extension specialists and growers to discuss gaps for DMs where research is needed to develop better control solutions to increase long-term profitability for growers, reduce the incidence and severity of DMs, and ultimately lead to reduced impact on the environment by reducing pesticide use.

Baron stated, "The IR-4 Project is grateful for these opportunities to serve specialty crop growers. We are also grateful for the network of collaborators who have joined together to find solutions to meet the needs for new knowledge and methodologies to manage pests and diseases to help the growers of these high valued specialty crops."

*The twelve institutions being supported by the, "Protecting Pollinators with Economically Feasible and Environmentally Sound Ornamental Horticulture" grant:

  • Connecticut Agriculture Experiment Station,
  • Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County,
  • Clemson University,
  • Michigan State University,
  • Penn State University,
  • Plant Management Network,
  • Rutgers University, The IR-4 Project
  • University of California - Agriculture and Natural Resources,
  • University of California - Davis,
  • University of Florida,
  • University of Kentucky and
  • University of Maine

To date, NIFA has awarded almost $400 million through the SCRI program. NIFA invests in and advances innovative and transformative initiatives to solve societal challenges and ensure the long-term viability of agriculture. NIFA's integrated research, education, and extension programs, supporting the best and brightest scientists and extension personnel, have resulted in user-inspired, groundbreaking discoveries that are combating childhood obesity, improving and sustaining rural economic growth, addressing water availability issues, increasing food production, finding new sources of energy, mitigating climate variability and ensuring food safety.