The Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI)

The Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), America's flagship agricultural competitive grants program, supports scientists, researchers, and extension professionals as they seek solutions to our most pressing societal challenges in agriculture, health, food safety and security, and more.

Female scientist analyzing plants under a light. Photo courtesy Getty Images.
AFRI advances fundamental, new science and translational research and development projects that build on those discoveries. AFRI also supports education and extension programs that deliver science-based knowledge to people, allowing them to make informed practical decisions. These AFRI-supported efforts enable our nation to respond to significant challenges, both here and abroad. Challenges include water quality, adapting to and mitigating the effects of changing climate, restoring soil health, improving food safety and quality, preventing childhood obesity, promoting the bioeconomy, and advancing America’s competitiveness internationally. Ultimately, our expectation is that the discoveries, along with the extension and education out- comes, promote farm profitability.

Stakeholder input through requests for applications and public meetings is critically important for the continual improvement of AFRI. More information is available on the AFRI Stakeholder Feedback page of the NIFA website.
Graphic with two boxes. Text reads AFRI FY17 Funding $311.5 Million and Projects 693.

In FY 2017, Congress appropriated $375 million for the AFRI program. During FY 2017, NIFA received approximately 2,700 proposals for AFRI grants and, after a peer-review process, made 693 awards. The funded projects focused on the six agricultural priorities of the 2014 Farm Bill:
  • Agricultural economics and rural communities;
  • Agricultural systems and technology;
  • Animal health and production and animal products;
  • Bioenergy, natural resources, and the environment;
  • Food safety, nutrition, and health; and 
  • Plant health and production and plant products.


Preventing the Spread of Cattle Fever - Tick populations in Mexico transmitting cattle fever can be a deadly threat to cattle in Texas. Northern Arizona University researchers, in collaboration with Mexican scientists, are using tick collections to determine the genetic sources of tick populations in Texas, and to genotype populations resistant to pesticides. This information is important to prevent a resurgence of cattle fever, which has cost the cattle industry as much as $3 billion.

Finding the “On” Switch to Johne’s Disease Immune Response - Johne’s disease is a contagious, chronic, and some times fatal infection in ruminant animals that costs farmers and producers millions of dollars every year. Colorado State University researchers have identified molecules that may identify the disease in 75 percent of cattle before they are 2.5 years old, the best time to test for Johne’s disease during preclinical stages.
Subudhi with rice at station

Widening the Genetic Base of U.S. Rice Germplasm - Drought and salinity are major climate-related risks for sustainable rice production. Researchers at Louisiana State University are designing rice cultivars that target seedling stage salinity tolerance. If successful, this research could enhance food security around the world.

Helping Save the Salmon - U.S. production of Atlantic salmon has dropped more than 35 percent since 2000, due to an increase in the death rate of salmon embryos. Research at the University of Maine shows that female salmon with high levels of two types of hormone produce eggs that achieve an 80 percent survival rate. Researchers are now determining patterns of steroid deposition into the eggs.
As the young salmon deplete their yolk sac nutrients, they emerge from the gravel habitat to feed. They pick out a "home rock" or plant, from which they dart out to capture insect larvae and other food passing in the conveyor belt of their home stream. They become territorial, guarding their home rock by driving away encroaching rivals. Credit: E. Peter Steenstra/USFWS

Cow Antibodies May Help Develop AIDS Vaccine - Building on previous discoveries by Texas A&M University, scientists are drawing out powerful HIV-blocking antibodies in cows in a matter of weeks, something that usually takes years in humans. Researchers believe that a cow’s ability to produce these antibodies against HIV highlights even broader significance, particularly for emerging pathogens.

Understanding the Health Benefits of Provitamin A - Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease afflicts 30 percent of men, 20 percent of women, and 3 to 10 percent of children in the United States. Researchers at Tufts University, Massachusetts, are investigating the effects of provitamin A, found in sweet red peppers, squash, and pumpkin. Provitamin A may prevent fatty liver and inflammation in 80-90 percent of obese adults, 30-50 percent of patients with diabetes, and 40-70 percent of obese children.

Food Nanotechnology: Expanding the Parameters of Consumer Acceptance - Nanotechnology is transforming food production, processing, and packaging. Researchers at Rutgers University, New Jersey, examined consumer beliefs about the relationship of nanotechnology to healthfulness, among other topic areas. In taste tests, samples were equally liked, regardless of whether they claimed nanotechnology benefits. Both genders were receptive to the idea, but research showed that men were more likely to accept nanotechnology in food.

Genome-Wide Association Identifies Alpine Goats with High Milk Production - Researchers at Langston University, Oklahoma are using genome-wide association to identify Alpine goats that produce the most milk. In addition, Langston faculty have developed advanced laboratory techniques and methods of data analysis, which have been used for training and professional development.

Reducing Ecological Footprint, Saving Money at Clemson - A Clemson University, South Carolina researcher created technology that uses data from sensors to determine how much fertilizer is needed in the field and at what time. Being tied to an irrigation system, it also regulates water flow. On-farm trials show savings of up to $54 per acre by reducing fertilizer applications by nearly two-thirds over conventional applications.

Highly Productive Corn has Reduced Ability to Adapt - Does acclimating to particular locations change a plant’s ability to adapt to new or stressful environments? University of Wisconsin-Madison led a team of researchers, including some from the University of Arizona, who found that the corn genome has undergone a high degree of selection – for example, genes that contribute to high yield in the environment of a particular location may have a reduced ability to respond in other environments.

Combining Ground and Aerial Vehicle Networks for Crop Disease Detection - Mechanical and aerospace engineering researchers at the University of Central Florida are integrating low-altitude aerial imaging and advanced sensor technologies to enhance early disease and stress detection in fruit and vegetable crops. New detection algorithms provide greater speed and accuracy, and a new detection sensor can detect water stress in its early stage.

Adapting Chicken Production to Climate Change through Breeding - Heat stress is one of the biggest hazards of chicken production in the United States. Researchers at the University of Delaware studied chickens from around the world and mapped genetic markers that may improve heat tolerance. The research also contributed to the “chicken gene atlas,” helping to provide basic information for future studies. This work could revolutionize poultry breeding in the United States by reducing the need to manage heat stress in hatcheries and birdhouses.

Robots May Enhance Productivity in Agriculture - Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, Pennsylvania, have created a camera-equipped vehicle that can detect fruit via automated image analysis. Image data gives producers the ability to predict yield well ahead of harvest, which saves them money and time by allowing them to properly prepare for labor, shipping, storage, marketing, and sales.