IR-4 Project Receives Federal Funding For Pollinator And Downy Mildew Research

Echinacea ‘Butterfly Rainbow Marcella’The recent announcement of new Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) funded projects, funded through USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), includes two projects from IR-4’s Ornamental Horticulture Program based at Rutgers University.

The first project is titled, “Protecting Pollinators with Economically Feasible and Environmentally Sound Ornamental Horticulture.” The five-year grant, which is funded for the first two years at $2,849,975, will support 21 scientists and Extension experts at 12 different institutions:
• Connecticut Agriculture Experiment Station
• Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County
• Clemson University
• Michigan State University
• Penn State University
• Plant Management Network
• Rutgers University, The IR-4 Project
• University of California – Agriculture and Natural Resources
• University of California – Davis
• University of Florida
• University of Kentucky
• University of Maine

Working with this team, IR-4’s Ornamental Horticulture Manager, Cristi Palmer, developed the project’s five objectives:

1. Identify pollinator attractiveness of top-selling crops.

2. Fill specific regulatory data gaps for pollinator risk assessment of systemic insecticide residues within ornamental horticulture crops.

3. Compare current pest management practices with alternative strategies.

4. Provide guidance to growers and landscape managers with updated best management practices.

5. Develop outreach tools for multiple stakeholder audiences.

“We have an excellent scientific and stakeholder team and are very grateful for this opportunity to study pollinators within ornamental horticulture,” says Palmer. “Until now, most research has been on edible crops, so our research will provide solid information to growers and landscape managers, enabling them to make effective pest management choices while protecting pollinators.”

Ultimately, this coordinated project will aid in reaching President Obama’s goal of restoring or enhancing 7 million acres of pollinator habitat by providing growers and landscape managers the knowledge to address pests while producing high-quality plants for pollinator forage.

IR-4 was also awarded a grant for $50,000 for “Identifying Knowledge Gaps and Novel Management Strategies for Downy Mildews Impacting Environmental Horticulture Crops.” This project will gather researchers, Extension specialists, and growers to discuss gaps for downy mildew where research is needed to develop better control solutions to increase long-term profitability for growers, reduce the incidence and severity of downy mildew, and ultimately lead to reduced impact on the environment by reducing pesticide use.

“The IR-4 Project is grateful for these opportunities to serve specialty crop growers,” says IR-4 Executive Director Jerry Baron. “We are also grateful for the network of collaborators who have joined together to find solutions to meet the needs for new knowledge and methodologies to manage pests and diseases to help the growers of these high-valued specialty crops.”

To date, NIFA has awarded almost $400 million through the SCRI program. NIFA invests in and advances innovative and transformative initiatives to solve societal challenges and ensure the long-term viability of agriculture.

For more than 50 years, the IR-4 Project has been the major resource for supplying pest management tools for specialty crops by developing research data to support registration clearances. To date, IR-4 has facilitated more than 50,000 registered crop uses.

IR-4 partners with government, industry land grant universities, and growers to develop data required to support the registration of pest management products. IR-4 focuses its research on products that respect human health and the environment. About 80% of IR-4 research projects are conducted on reduced-risk chemistries and biologically based products that fit into Integrated Pest Management systems.

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