Agronomic & Forage Crops Program

Field and forage crops are grown on most of the more than 200 million acres of harvested cropland in the United States. These crops provide the food, feed grain, oil, and fiber for domestic consumption, and they are a major component of U.S. export trade.

Uses of grain, oil, and fiber crops for industrial purposes are substantial and increasing. Competition from world markets has kept the price of farm commodities low, while the cost of production continues to increase. To stay competitive, farmers have had to adopt innovative practices, such as high-yielding cultivars, labor-saving equipment, and chemical inputs. At the same time, they must maintain a balance between yield and input costs, as well as monitor environmental impacts. These challenges are likely to intensify. Therefore, the need for NIFA support for agronomic research, extension, and education is greater now than ever before.

Cultivar Selection and Development

This research work focuses on developing cultivars that are adapted to local climatic and soil conditions. These cultivars provide resistance to major pests and diseases, produce acceptable yield and quality, and have appropriate agronomic characteristics that are compatible with production systems.

The success of agronomic crop production in various locations in the United States depends on the availability of plant varieties and hybrids specifically adapted to local production conditions. Cultivar selection and development represent a major use of NIFA federal Hatch and multistate formula grants by land-grant experiment stations. Most of them have active breeding programs to develop the more important crops grown in their state.

Research activities in this area span a wide range, including:

  • New planting, cultivating, harvesting, and processing technologies for use in crop and forage production systems
  • Genes identified of agronomic importance and methods developed to accelerate improvement in new crop varieties and value-added products
  • New methods to estimate forage yield and quality to support marketing and reduce producer risks
  • Superior performing varieties with resistance to established and emerging pests and diseases, or abiotic stresses
  • Improved water and nutrient use efficiency traits for crop varieties that result in decreased irrigation and fertilizer demand, while maintaining yield and quality
  • Multiple production components managed to improve profitability, productivity, and resource stewardship
  • Crop production systems modeled and data integrated to increase productivity and enhance resilience
Program Type:
Emphasis Area Program
Program Specific Resources
External Resources

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