Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI)

The intent of the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) is to promote collaboration, open communication, the exchange of information, and the development of resources that accelerate application of scientific discovery and technology to solving needs of the various specialty crop industries. SCRI will give priority to projects that are multistate, multi-institutional, or trans-disciplinary, and include explicit mechanisms to communicate results to producers and the public.

General Information

SCRI-funded projects are characterized by integration of research and extension activities and strong evidence of stakeholder involvement in project development. Applicants to SCRI are strongly encouraged to propose a unique approach to solving problems facing the specialty crop industry using a systems approach.

A systems approach is any process of estimating or inferring how local policies, actions, or changes influence the state of the neighboring universe. It is a framework that is based on the belief that the component parts of a system can best be understood in the context of relationships with each other and with other systems, rather than in isolation. The only way to fully understand why a problem or element occurs and persists is to understand the part in relation to the whole.

Specialty crops are defined in law as fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, and horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture. 

Legislative Focus Area Priorities

  1. Research in plant breeding, genetics, genomics, and other methods to improve crop characteristics. Projects that seek to create improved cultivars through the use of biotechnology must demonstrate an understanding of the regulatory requirements involved in their release and must also present a plan for addressing the regulatory issues;
  2. Efforts to identify and address threats from pests and diseases, including threats to specialty crop pollinators;
  3. Efforts to improve production efficiency, handling and processing, productivity, and profitability over the long term (including specialty crop policy and marketing);
  4. New innovations and technology, including improved mechanization and technologies that delay or inhibit ripening;
  5. Methods to prevent, detect, monitor, control, and respond to potential food safety hazards in the production efficiency, handling and processing of specialty crops, including fresh produce.

Project Types

The SCRI offers the following three project types. These project types are described in more detail in the RFA. Applicants should decide which project type is best suited to the objectives of their research and extension project and develop a budget that fits the objectives. 

  1. Standard Research and Extension Projects (SREPs)
  2. Coordinated Agricultural Projects (CAPs)
  3. Research and Extension Planning Projects 

Application Process with Relevance Review - How It Works

The SCRI application review is now a two-stage process. First, NIFA publishes a call for pre-applications, typically in September or October. Applicants submit a Stakeholder Relevance Statement, estimated budget request, letters of support, and other supporting documents. Those packets undergo a review by members of the specialty crop industry. To the degree possible, crop types are grouped and considered by industry representatives familiar with that crop. 

Following the relevance review, an invitation to submit a full project proposal is sent to those applicants recommended by the relevance review panels. Generally, this is roughly 50% of applicants. Along with the invitation, a targeted call for proposals with information and directions for full applications is included. Typically, 4 to 6 weeks is allowed for submission of full proposals. After the closing date, a full scientific merit review, which follows the same procedures as other scientific merit reviews at NIFA, is conducted. The final ranking of proposals incorporates results from both the relevance and the scientific merit reviews. 

Program Type: 
Grant Program

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