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USDA grants to help California specialty crops
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California specialty crops are getting a financial boost from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as one of 19 states that received part of $46 million in grant funding to develop new ag technology.

The University of California, Davis received two grants. The first award was for $1,903,727 to help growers remove postharvest impediments that are keeping consistently great tasting produce from being marketed without compromising food safety.

The second UCD grant was $50,000 to develop effective controls for canker diseases of grape, stone fruits (apricot, cherry, nectarine, peach, plum) and nut crops (almond, pistachio, walnut) that are economically feasible and environmentally sound.

The final California grant was awarded to the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Albany ($624,502), to research water management strategies that reduce the water requirement for grapes and manage salinity in vineyards.

"Over the last 60 years, agriculture, including horticulture, has become increasingly reliant on science and technology to maintain profitable production," said Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan. "Specialty crop producers in the United States—as with all of American agriculture—are seeing sales surge both domestically and abroad as consumers search for high quality, 'Grown in America' fruits, vegetables and tree nuts. These projects will help provide specialty crop producers with the information and tools they need to successfully grow, process and market safe and high quality products, supporting jobs and opportunities for Americans working in specialty crops. From herbs to apples, from walnuts to grapes, specialty crops are central to the richness of American agriculture."

USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture awarded the grants through its Specialty Crop Research Initiative.

SCRI supports the specialty crop industry by developing and disseminating science-based tools to address the needs of specific crops. Specialty crops are defined in law as "fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture." Funded projects address five focus areas: 1) improve crop characteristics through plant breeding, genetics and genomics; 2) address threats from pests and diseases; 3) improve production efficiency, productivity and profitability; 4) develop new innovations and technologies and 5) develop methods to improve food safety.

SCRI gives priority to projects that are multistate, multi-institutional or trans-disciplinary; and include explicit mechanisms to communicate results to producers and the public. Each of the focus areas received at least 10 percent of the available funds. The majority of funded projects addresses two or more focus areas, and includes many collaborating institutions in addition to the awardee.

The projects funded address research and extension needs for crops that span the entire spectrum of specialty crops production, from researching plant genetics to improving crop characteristics; identifying and addressing threats from pests and diseases; improving production and profitability; developing new production innovations and technologies; and developing methods to respond to food safety hazards.

Projects were funded in Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. Most of the grant recipients are universities and colleges.

A full list of awardees can be found online at:

To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.