Good Fruit Grower

December 2011

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New Equipment & Technology M Collaborative RESEARCH T he last Farm Bill not only provided an unprecedented amount of funding for research to benefit specialty crops, but changed the whole culture of tree fruit research in the United States. It's led to major collaborative efforts to find practical solutions to problems that growers face, said Dr. Jim McFerson, who was among many in the research A new approach to tree fruit research is starting to bear fruit, but whether the Specialty Crop Research Initiative will survive in the next Farm Bill is not yet known. by Geraldine Warner and producer communities who worked with state and federal policy makers to ensure that the 2008 Farm Bill included help for specialty crop industries as well as program crops. In the case of tree fruits, the primary impetus was the need to produce quality fruit at a lower per-unit cost. The Farm Bill allocated $250 million through the Specialty Crop Research Initiative over a five-year period, with an unprecedented 100- percent match required from industry. By the time the last round of annual awards is made in 2012, the SCRI will have spawned almost half a billion dollars of new research on specialty crops. Grants are awarded on a competitive basis, and a significant number of producers serve on the review panels. Priority is given to projects that are multistate, multi-institutional, and multidisciplinary, and that show how the results will be communicated to producers and the public. The 2008 Farm Bill also provided far more funding than in the past for the Specialty Crop Block Grant program, which began in 2001. A total of $224 million was allocated over five years, to be awarded through states, with a minimum amount per state and the rest in proportion to the size of the specialty crop industry in the state. The grants are awarded by state departments of agriculture. "This was the first time significant attention was paid to specialty crops, and the first time significant amounts of funding were made available for these horticultural crops," McFerson recalled. "One of the real successes we had was engagement with our stake - holders. We weren't simply trying to create more money so researchers could get more funding. We were trying to create a climate where spe- cialty crops got enough attention and funding to address problems that challenged all of us. It was not researcher driven—it wasn't about getting money for research. "It was about identifying research areas where we felt there were scientific and technological advances to be made. It was about substituting brain power for horse- power," he said, noting that the program has allowed some creative and visionary scientists to put their ideas to the test. Ten years ago, the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission compiled a Technology Road Map, which was a strategic plan on how to address the industry's problems through technologi- cal innovation. The Road Map expanded into a national effort to secure more fund- ing for tree fruit research in the last Farm Bill. "I credit the commission for having the $60-million BOOST ore than $60 million dollars in grants have been awarded so far through the Specialty Crop Research Initiative specifically for research projects in tree fruit and grapes. This is the fourth year of the five-year program, which was authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill. Most projects involve scientists of various disciplines from multiple institutions and private companies. This fall, the National Institute for Food and Agricul- ture, which administers the program, announced the fourth year of awards. The largest new grant, for $5.7 mil- lion, was made to a team led by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania, to develop economically and environ- mentally sustainable pest management practices for the brown marmorated stinkbug. Other new grants relating to grape and tree fruit production included: Pollination: $3.3 million to the University of Massa- chusetts to research diverse pollination methods for fruit and vegetable production in the Northeast. Innovative management: $2.5 million to Michigan State University to develop innovative management technologies and tactics for apple and cherry production systems. Cold-climate grapes: $2.5 million to Cornell Univer- sity, New York, to address production and marketing con- straints for the emerging cold-climate grape and wine industries in the Upper Midwest and Northeast. Grape breeding: $2.1 million to Cornell to accelerate the development of new grape cultivars. Pesticide drift: $50,000 to Ohio State University to host a workshop on injuries to fruit and vegetable crops caused by herbicide drift from row crops. Bird damage: $2.0 million to Michigan State Univer- sity to develop cost-effective and environmentally sus- tainable strategies to reduce bird damage to blueberries, cherries, wine grapes, and Honeycrisp apples. Water management: A $0.6 million continuation grant to the USDA's Agricultural Research Service in Albany, California, to research strategies to reduce the water requirement for grapes and manage salinity in vineyards. Canker diseases: $50,000 to the University of Califor- nia, Davis, to develop controls for canker diseases of grapes, stone fruits, and nuts. Continuation grants were awarded to the following: RosBREED: $2.0 million to MSU to continue research on marker-assisted breeding to deliver improved plant materials to the apple, peach, sweet and tart cherry, and strawberry industries. The project, led by Amy Iezzoni, will receive $7.2 million in SCRI funding over four years. Tree fruit genomics:A $1.0 million con- tinuation grant to Washington State Uni- versity for a project entitled, "Tree Fruit Genomics Database for Rosaceae: Trans- lating Genomics into Advances in Horticul- ture." Total SCRI funding for the project, led by Dorrie Main, is $2.0 million. Current projects The following grants relating to tree fruit and grapes were awarded during the first three years of the SCRI program: Automation: Comprehensive automa- vision to go after this," said former com- missioner Denny Hayden. "Jim McFerson was a dynamo in this realm. He under- stood it. He understood the players. He understood the scientific community, and he understood the administrative people in Washington, D.C., that he needed to interact An autonomous vehicle is being developed as part of the project "Comprehensive automation for specialty crops." 14 DECEMBER 2011 GOOD FRUIT GROWER tion for specialty crops, $6.0 million. Led by Sanjiv Singh at Carnegie Mellon Univer- sity. OBJECTIVES: Develop automation tech- nologies, including autonomous vehicles for mobility and augmented harvesting, along with plant stress detection, disease and insect infestation detection, insect monitoring, tree caliper measurement, and crop-load scouting. Spotted wing drosophila: Biology and management of spotted wing drosophila on small and stone fruits, $5.8 million. Led by Vaughn Walton, Oregon State

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