$58 Million In APHIS Farm Bill Funding Will Support Horticulture Priorities

Impatiens downy mildew, Photo Credit: Ian Maguire, Biological Scientist, University of Florida
Impatiens downy mildew, Photo Credit: Ian Maguire, Biological Scientist, University of Florida

Nearly $58 million has been allocated by the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to support the industry’s Plant Pest and Disease Management and Disaster Prevention Program, under Farm Bill Section 10007. The program will support mitigation efforts for specialty crops, including providing research and other funding to address plant pest and disease priorities for the specialty crop industry, including floriculture and nursery crops.

“A very significant portion of this funding is of benefit to our own industry,” says the Society of American Florists’ (SAF) Senior Director of Government Relations Lin Schmale. “We worked hard to increase the annual funding for this section of the Farm Bill, and continue to work with APHIS as it is implemented.”

In addition, Schmale and AmericanHort’s Craig Regelbrugge, senior vice president for industry advocacy and research, were honored this year as recipients of the APHIS 2013 Safeguarding Award, along with other industry, state and federal team members, for their work leading up to 2013 spending plan.

“Our industry’s partnership with APHIS is a shining example and a model for solving tough problems,” Regelbrugge says. “Together, we’re tackling threats to our industry’s very future.”

Horticulture priorities to be funded include research on significant pathogens, pollinator health and continued support for the National Clean Plant Network. Here is the breakdown on the priorities and how much each area will receive:

• An important and innovative new project will strongly benefit the industry’s pollinator stewardship effort. It brings AmericanHort and SAF together with partners from the American Beekeeper Federation, the American Honey Producers Association, the American Seed Trade Association and the Pollinator Partnership for the first time on a coordinated project, fully funded at $272,000.

The project will identify which plants already available in the trade are the most valuable forage sources for bees at different times of the year. The results will help to identify plants for which growers should be especially cautious with systemic and long-residual insecticides, and help inform the public about which landscape plants they can purchase from their local garden centers for helping pollinators in their area. The funding adds to the funds the industry is already targeting toward research on pollinators and industry efforts to identify “bee-friendly” plants and improve chemical management practices.

• More than $417,000 will continue, for the third year, for multi-institution research project on downy mildews, focusing on Impatiens Downy Mildew, its overwintering capacity, improved controls and other aspects of this devastating problem. This project pulls together researchers from USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, APHIS, IR-4, Cornell University, Michigan State University, North Carolina State University and the University of Florida.

• Funding will continue the industry’s long-term effort to recognize greenhouses and nurseries using “best management practices” through a voluntary certification program that will allow expedited (and less expensive) interstate shipments of plant material.

• More than $264,000 to a joint project between University of Florida and the Florida Department of Agriculture continuing the study of invasive whitefly species.

• $85,000 in continued funding to a study of rapid diagnostics for rose rosette disease.

• A fourth year of funding, at $834,000, on boxwood blight, a significant pathogen concern of nursery growers.

• Significant continued funding for solutions to Phytophthora ramorum, or “sudden oak death,” through a variety of projects at the National Ornamentals Research Site at Dominican University in California and other locations.

• More than $180,000 to improve diagnostic tools for Ralstonia solanacearum.

• $70,000 to help a project aimed at certifying that caladiums are free of grassy tuber disease.

• $54,000 to better identify nematode species, to help improve port clearance procedures for plant material.

• Finally, and of potential significance to herbaceous, as well as perennial and woody crops, is the continued funding for the National Clean Plant Network (NCPN), which has traditionally focused on helping to provide plants free of viruses and other pathogens to the nursery trade, but has potential for other segments of the horticulture industry. In the last Farm Bill, NCPN was merged with the Plant Pest and Disease Management Program, but the review process for project proposals remains autonomous. NCPN focuses on high-value genera with serious pest concerns, such as apples, grapevines, stone fruit and berries.

The three hubs for the fruit tree network – Clemson University, University of California-Davis and University of Washington – received more than $2.1 million to support the network’s goal of making disease-free, certified planting materials available to the horticulture industry and ensure the global competitiveness of U.S. specialty crop producers. In its inaugural year in the NCPN, the garden rose program will be administered by Foundation Plant Services at UC Davis, and a new network center at Texas A&M, which received $115,000 to launch the new program.

“Of course, in addition to these projects, much of the other work funded this year is potentially of interest and importance to the industry,” Schmale says. “It is not too much to say that our ongoing work with APHIS is among our most important efforts. SAF and AmericanHort are, literally, providing stepping stones into a better and more profitable world.”

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