New federal funding to support research important to the floriculture industry was announced last week by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.
Nineteen projects totaling $36.5 million funded under the USDA’s Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) will help growers of specialty crops, which include floral and nursery crops as well as fruits, vegetables and nuts. The SCRI grants are funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture and authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, supported by both the Society of American Florists and AmericanHort.
“These dollars are critically important to floriculture and nursery businesses,” said SAF COO Drew Gruenburg. “Industry, including the green industry, is given a strong voice in determining research priorities, and SAF was an active participant in that process. Once again, it shows the importance of industry involvement.”
Two projects have implications for floral and nursery crops:
- Protecting Pollinators with Economically Feasible and Environmentally Sound Ornamental Horticulture: This $2.85 million research project will help regulators and the industry protect pollinators when making decisions about the use and availability of pesticides. Research will investigate the concentration of pesticides in pollen and nectar to determine whether residues exceed safe levels based on current floral and nursery production practices. It will also examine consumer purchasing behavior and perceptions of plants attractive to pollinators and design best management practices for growers and landscape professionals to deal with pest problems while protecting pollinators.SAF, AmericanHort, the American Floral Endowment and the Horticultural Research Institute have worked together over the last two years on “bee smart” stewardship initiatives designed to help provide information and support research on pollinators and the floral and nursery industry’s role in bee and pollinator health. Go to growwise.org and to the American Floral Endowment or the Horticultural Research Institute to learn more.
- Identifying Knowledge Gaps and Novel Management Strategies for Downy Mildew: $50,000 was awarded to support collaboration among researchers, extension specialists and growers to develop new sustainable and economically viable options for dealing with downy mildew diseases of horticulture crops.
SCRI funds projects to address research and extension needs that span the entire spectrum of specialty crops production: researching plant genetics, improving crop characteristics, production and profitability; identifying and addressing threats from pests and diseases and developing new production innovations, among others.
SAF and AmericanHort, through their participation in the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance, were key players in supporting this portion of the Farm Bill. Last fall, SAF and AmericanHort joined other agriculture sector representatives, along with APHIS and state regulators and scientists, to help recommend and identify priorities for the current year’s funding cycle as new research proposals were considered.