USA – US Department of Agriculture (USDA) through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has invested US$77.8 million in research that will focus on sustaining a more abundant, nutritious, and accessible food supply.

The funding will see eight land-grant universities lead projects aimed at integrating sustainable agricultural approaches covering the entire food production system.

USDA’s Deputy Under Secretary, Scott Hutchins says that the investment will enable adoption of climate smart agriculture techniques to ensure sustainable productivity in the sector.

“Investing in high-value research that promotes sustainably intensified agricultural practices, while addressing climate adaptation and limited resources, ensures long-term agricultural productivity and profitability,” Hutchins said who also leads USDA’s Research, Education and Economics (REE) mission area.

“This provides unprecedented opportunities for American farmers and producers. USDA continues to support our nation’s farmers through investments that help strengthen our rural communities.”

Western Illinois University, part of the eight universities leading these projects, will lead research aimed at developing pennycress as an oilseed crop that can be used as biofuel.

The goal is to help farmers throughout the US Midwest Corn Belt and in other temperate-regions to grow pennycress as a winter-annual cash cover crop.

Pennycress is a unique, high-yielding oilseed crop that can provide environmental benefits including reducing nitrogen runoff and preventing soil erosion.

Also participating in the research, the New Mexico State University will focus on improving the efficiency of Southwestern ranches.

It will be using systems models and linking the socioeconomic and environmental trade-offs associated with heritage cattle genetics, precision ranching and range finishing.

This is expected to eventually help Southwest producers find more economical and sustainable ways to raise beef cattle using precision farming techniques.

North Carolina State University will be leading a multi-institutional project that focuses on increasing crop productivity, conserving natural resources, and reducing the agro-ecological footprint using cover crops.

This research investment taps into creative intellect from 19 universities and scientific experts from USDA’s Agricultural Research Service.

This research investment is part of a new program within NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative’s (AFRI) Sustainable Agricultural Systems program, the nation’s leading and largest competitive grants program for agricultural sciences.

AFRI is authorised by the 2018 Farm Bill and addresses major challenges in food, agriculture, natural resources and human sciences.

“If we want a sustainable food production system that also safeguards our natural resources, we need approaches that are both innovative and economically viable for our nation’s farmers, ranchers and food producers. This ultimately benefits our nation’s consumers,” said Hutchins.