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USDA provides funds for California specialty crops research

The USDA issued a news release on Friday announcing $55 million in block grants to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops around the country, with California receiving more than $17 million. Of the 64 California projects, 19 are led by researchers affiliated with UC Agriculture and Natural Resources.

A large share of funding - $1.4 million - goes to nine food-safety projects to be coordinated by UC’s Center for Produce Safety, according to an article in the Fresno Bee.

"Scientists and researchers with the University of California and industry groups are exploring everything from whether frogs and lizards are potential carriers of E.coli to whether dust from a cattle operation can carry E.coli into a vegetable field," wrote Bee reporter Robert Rodriguez.

The executive director of the Center for Produce Safety, Bonnie Fernandez, told Rodriguez the funding comes at a time of heightened awareness of food safety among consumers and farmers.

"There are simply a lot of unanswered gaps of knowledge on these issues," Fernandez was quoted. "We want to know where the pathogens came from, how it attaches to a product and how we can reduce the risk of that happening."

Management of exotic pests is another issue where USDA provided funding for UC research, according to the listing on USDA's website. For example, grants will support efforts to:

  • Release and evaluate four exotic olive fruit fly parasitoids in order to improve sustainable table and oil olive management

  • Test the area-wide application of mating disruption of vine mealybug in Napa County

  • Evaluate the efficacy of organic pesticides for Asian Citrus Psyllid control so science-based control recommendations can be made to organic citrus growers

  • Survey resistance ratios in olive fruit fly populations from California regions not sampled in a previous study

Funds were also made available to expand and improve the online specialty crop production information now available on UC's Fruit & Nut Research and Information Center website and call-in center.

In addition, the new funding will allow UC researchers to work with several school districts and their regional partners to expand their procurement of local seasonal fresh produce, enhance their ability to integrate a specialty crop nutritional curriculum by providing outreach and professional development to school personnel, and assess changes in food preferences and dietary behaviors of children in participating school.

Other UC projects receiving the funding will look into onion seed production, strawberries' ability to restore impaired insulin, steam injection for soil disinfestation, and mealy plum aphid and leaf-curl plum aphid control in prunes.

The UC Center for Produce Safety to receive substantial research funds from USDA.
The UC Center for Produce Safety to receive substantial research funds from USDA.

Posted on Monday, September 20, 2010 at 9:55 AM

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