Mar 30, 2016
USDA announces $5.2 million for nanotechnology research

USDAlogoAgriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced an investment of more than $5.2 million to support nanotechnology research at 11 universities. The universities will research ways nanotechnology can be used to improve food safety, enhance renewable fuels, increase crop yields, manage agricultural pests, and more. The awards were made through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), a competitive, peer-reviewed grants program for fundamental and applied agricultural sciences.

Universities receiving funding include:

  • Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama
  • Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven, Connecticut
  • University of Central Florida in Orlando, Florida
  • University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia
  • Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa
  • University of Massachusetts in Amherst, Massachusetts
  • Mississippi State University in Starkville, Mississippi
  • Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri
  • Clemson University in Clemson, South Carolina
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia
  • University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin

With this funding, Auburn University proposes to improve pathogen monitoring throughout the food supply chain by creating a user-friendly system that can detect multiple foodborne pathogens simultaneously, accurately, cost effectively, and rapidly. Mississippi State University will research ways nanochitosan can be used as a combined fire-retardant and antifungal wood treatment that is also environmentally safe. Experts in nanotechnology, molecular biology, vaccines and poultry diseases at the University of Wisconsin will work to develop nanoparticle-based poultry vaccines to prevent emerging poultry infections. USDA has a full list of projects and longer descriptions available online.

Past projects include a University of Georgia project developing a bio-nanocomposites-based, disease-specific, electrochemical sensors for detecting fungal pathogen induced volatiles in selected crops; and a University of Massachusetts project creating a platform for pathogen detection in foods that is superior to the current detection method in terms of analytical time, sensitivity, and accuracy using a novel, label-free, surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) mapping technique.

Since AFRI’s creation, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has awarded more than $89 million to solve challenges related to plant health and production; $22 million of this has been dedicated to nanotechnology research. The President’s 2017 budget request proposes to fully fund AFRI for $700 million; this amount is the full funding level authorized by Congress when it established AFRI in the 2008 Farm Bill.

Since 2009, USDA has invested $4.32 billion in research and development grants. Studies have shown that every dollar invested in agricultural research now returns over $20 to our economy, the USDA said.





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