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USDA Awards Grant to University of California-Riverside to Explore Management of Late Blight Disease

Media Contact: Jennifer Martin, (202) 720-8188

RIVERSIDE, Calif., March 30, 2011 – Dr. Cathie Woteki, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Chief Scientist and Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics, today announced  a grant to University of California at Riverside to research methods to better manage late blight disease in tomatoes and potatoes.

“More than 40 percent of current crop production among the top 10 food crops is lost to pests and diseases annually and that is a huge loss for farmers,” Woteki said. “USDA is funding this project to help agricultural producers win the future by ensuring our country can keep producing the food needed to meet rising global demand in a sustainable way.”

The $9 million project, funded by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), will develop ways to better manage late blight disease.  The disease resistant genes and the appearance of fungicide-insensitive strains have raised new challenges to combat this devastating organism. The researchers will survey important pathogen traits to identify the best ways to control the disease.

The team will also deploy a national late blight reporting and alert system with an integrated decision support system to help growers make sound, science-based decisions via the Internet. They will also employ new understandings of oomycete pathogens to breed tomato cultivars with enhanced disease resistance. To help alleviate an anticipated shortage of skilled plant pathologists, the project will host a 10-week summer research program for undergraduate students.

The grant was awarded through NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). AFRI’s global food security challenge area focuses on two intertwined issues: food availability and food accessibility. Adequate food availability implies that the population has a reliable source of food from domestic or international production. For adequate food accessibility, the population must have sufficient resources to purchase food for a nutritious diet. The long-term goal of this program is to increase global food availability through increased food production with reduced losses.

AFRI is NIFA’s flagship competitive grant program and was established under the 2008 Farm Bill. AFRI supports work in six priority areas: plant health and production and plant products; animal health and production and animal products; food safety, nutrition and health; renewable energy, natural resources and environment; agriculture systems and technology; and agriculture economics and rural communities.

Through federal funding and leadership for research, education and extension programs, USDA’s NIFA focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people's daily lives and the nation's future.  More information is available at: www.nifa.usda.gov.

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