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.

What has been funded in the past?

To find a list of projects funded through SCRI and links to their reports, please go to the bottom of this page and click on the SCRI link under "Related Funding Opportunities". On that page, scroll down to find a link entitled "Read the Abstracts". This will bring you to a list of the reports in our system.

HIGHLIGHTS OF PROJECTS COMPLETED OR IN PROGRESS

  • Grapes: The Efficient Vineyard Project is working on innovations to measure and manage variations in growing conditions and yields in vineyards across the United States. They post updates on their work regularly on The Efficient Vineyard Project website.
  • Fruits in the Rose Family: RosBREED: Combining Disease Resistance with Horticultural Quality in New Rosaceous Cultivars is focused on developing and applying modern DNA tests and related breeding methods to deliver new cultivars of rosaceous crops in 22 U.S. breeding programs, focusing on apple, blackberry, peach, pear, rose, strawberry, sweet cherry, and tart cherry. The project is managed through Michigan State University and Washington State University. Together they are leading a group of 35 scientists from 14 U.S. institutions along with numerous international cooperators. Visit the RosBREED website.
  • Roses: At Texas A&M University, a team is investigating strategies for "Combating Rose Rosette Disease." For more information on their strategies, view their Facebook webpage “Combating Rose Rosette Disease.”
  • Pollinators: A team at Michigan State University is wrapping up The Integrated Crop Pollination Project as a part of their Michigan Pollinator Initiative. Check out the Integrated Crop Pollination Project resources for growers!
  • Broccoli: The Eastern Broccoli Project at Cornell is “developing an Eastern Broccoli Industry through cultivar development, economically and environmentally sustainable production and delivery”.
  • Carrots: Funding to USDA’s Agricultural Research Service in cooperation with the University of Wisconsin supports carrot breeding to develop pest resistance. Watch a video on carrot breeding.
  • Produce Safety: A team coordinated through USDA’s Agricultural Research Service is investigating methods for improving food safety factors in washing, packing, and display of fresh produce. For more information on the project, visit Fresh Cut Food Safety.
  • Vegetable Grafting: The Vegetable Grafting Project, directed by researchers at NC State University, is working to assist the makers, distributors and users of grafted vegetable plants by providing current, research-based information that addresses specific obstacles to their success.
  • Pollinators and Pesticides: A type of pesticides, neonicotinoids, are having adverse effects on pollinators such as honey bees. Researchers at Purdue University are leading a team exploring solutions to this issue. Watch a video about bees and pesticides.
  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Water: Clean WateR3 is a project focused on research and outreach to help growers Reduce, Remediate and Recycle irrigation water and it is affiliated with the Water Education Alliance for Horticulture. Visit the Clean WateR3 website to learn more about this prolific project.
  • Hazelnuts: The Hybrid Hazelnut Consortium is a collaborative effort by Rutgers, Nebraska Forest Service, the National Arbor Day Foundation, and Oregon State University. Oregon took the lead on two SCRI projects addressing needs in the hazelnut industry, such as developing varieties that are resistant to eastern filbert blight. Check out this informative video from Nebraska Forest Service.
  • Cucurbits: The CucCAP team is developing disease resistant varieties.
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