• FFAR Joins Consortium to Establish Ecosystem Markets for Agriculture

    Ecosystem Services Market Consortium rewards farmers for climate-smart farming methodsWASHINGTON (November 19, 2019) – Climate change is threatening food security and farmer livelihoods, however, implementing climate-smart farming practices that reduce emissions will help farmers thrive—not just survive. The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) contributed $10.3 million to the Ecosystem Services Market Research Consortium (ESMRC) to establish a $20 million research arm for the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium, an innovative collaboration that is creating a functional ecosystem services market that will launch and be fully operational in 2022. The ecosystems market will pay and recognize farmers and ranchers who adopt conservation management practices that improve soil health and water usage and reduce greenhouse gas emissions; this research consortium will provide the research necessary to create a scaled, efficient, cost-effective marketplace that works for farmers and ranchers. The agriculture sector accounts for roughly a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions. However, through an ecosystem services market, agriculture can mitigate up to 89 percent of its emissions by incentivizing farming practices that sequester carbon in the soil. According to the 2018 report from the New Climate Economy: The next 2-3 years are a critical window to make an impact on climate change. The report recommends several priorities that need immediate action, including carbon pricing and private sector involvement.  ESMRC, the research arm of the Consortium, was formed to advance research that supports an ecosystem services market that incentivizes farmers and ranchers to improve on-farm production practices. The Research Consortium delivers a partner-driven framework that will catalyze the creation of the national ESM program and convene experts to enhance the economic and environmental resilience of our food supply. “Farmers and agriculture can be a constructive force in reversing climate change and preserving natural resources.  Farmers are the largest group of land stewards and when they implement climate-smart practices, it helps us all,” said FFAR’s Executive Director Sally Rockey. “I expect this consortium to be at the center of creating new value for these practices and bringing that value back to the farmers who are so deserving to be compensated for their good work. FFAR is thrilled to be the major funder of this unique effort.” The ESMRC is working to achieve the following objectives:Establish a functioning ESM protocol for ecosystem services (carbon, water quality and water quantity) Identify agricultural management system impacts on ecosystem services Develop innovative advanced learning techniques to improve ecosystem services monitoring and quantification Institute an online platform that tracks and quantifies changes in ecosystem services data Standardize data collection Quantify carbon sequestration capacity of agricultural soils“We are excited and honored to welcome FFAR to the Research arm of the Consortium”, said ESMC’s Executive Director, Debbie Reed. “This public-private partnership is a true win for US farmers and ranchers who will be paid for the services they deliver, and will help scale carbon drawdown. This market will provide the tools, support and buyers to recognize and reward farmers who increase soil carbon sequestration, reduce GHG, and improve water quality and water use conservation. ESMC’s outcomes-based market brings together the collaborators needed to ensure a viable market well into the future.” Along with measurable improvements to the environment, forming a viable ecosystem services market will benefit farmers and ranchers in several ways. The program will help improve farm management practices that enhance overall operational efficiency in the form of higher yields, increased resiliency to severe climate shifts, and improved water and soil quality. The intended impact of this effort is to enroll 30 percent of available land in the top four crop regions and top four pasture regions to impact 250 million acres by 2030 and 650 million acres by 2050 in outcomes-based conservation practices. “As a sixth-generation Kansas farmer, increasing soil health and resiliency has always been important to my family and me,” said Charles Atkinson, an American Soybean Association Board member who raises soybeans with his father and son on 1,000 acres in Southeast Kansas near Columbus. “We applaud FFAR’s funding to ESMC to develop a market to pay producers for conservation practices we establish on our land to sequester carbon, reduce greenhouse gases and increase water quality and quantity. The research to be conducted with FFAR’s support is a critical part of the equation in making ecosystem markets successful.” FFAR’s contribution to ESMC adds to contributions made by the Noble Research Institute, General Mills Foundation, the McKnight Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, US Department of Agriculture’s Natural Research Conservation Service and the United Soybean Board. ### About the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium (ESMC) The Ecosystem Services Market Consortium LLC was formed in May 2019 and is a subsidiary of the Soil Health Institute. ESMC’s mission is to advance ecosystem service markets that incentivize farmers and ranchers to improve soil health systems that benefit society. ESMC LLC is a member-based organization launching a national scale ecosystem services market for agriculture to recognize and reward farmers and ranchers for their environmental services to society. ESMC members represent the spectrum of the agricultural sector supply chain with whom we are scaling sustainable agricultural sector outcomes, including increased soil carbon, reduced net greenhouse gases, and improved water quality and water use conservation.


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  • FFAR Grant Aims to Halt Spread of Invasive Tick Species

    “The three life stages of the Asian longhorned tick as collected in Tennessee, from left to right: adult female, nymph and larva. Photo by R. T. Trout Fryxell, courtesy UTIA.WASHINGTON (November 14, 2019) – The invasive Asian longhorned tick (Haemaphysalis longicornis), a foreign parasite that can transmit a variety of blood-borne pathogens, is spreading rapidly in the US. While Asian longhorned ticks found in the US have yet to test positive for pathogens, their increasing prevalence threatens American farmers, livestock, companion animals and wildlife. In response to this threat, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) awarded a $150,000 Rapid Outcomes from Agriculture Research (ROAR) grant to the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture (UTIA) to map the tick’s spread and develop response strategies to protect farmers, ranchers and their animals. As the name implies, the Asian longhorned tick is native to China, Japan, Korea and other parts of Asia. The tick arrived in the US in 2017 and was initially found in locations that did not have a clear connection to Asia; but experts are not clear on how the tick came to the US. As of this September, the parasite has been detected in twelve states, from Connecticut to Arkansas. The tick multiplies quickly thanks to asexual reproduction and is capable of rapid infestation of fields and host animals. One female can start a population, and to date, no males have been found in the US. The ticks feed in large population clusters, overwhelming their victims and surprised observers by extracting enough blood to cause anemia in grown livestock and death in young animals. “The Asian longhorned tick landed in the US seemingly without explanation and has moved quickly though New England, the Mid-Atlantic and now the Southeast. Adding to our concern, not much is known about this parasite,” said Sally Rockey, FFAR executive director. “We have a rare opportunity to address this infestation now, before the Asian longhorned tick begins spreading pathogens. This grant is taking the first steps to curb the threat by mapping its spread and arming farmers with mitigation strategies.” To address this threat, University of Tennessee researchers are collaborating with academic, government and industry stakeholders to develop a tick-surveillance network. Members of this network include Tennessee Departments of Agriculture and Health, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, and United States Department of Agriculture (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Agricultural Research Service, Forest Service and Veterinary Services), as well as, local animal shelters, producers, livestock markets, and Extension agents. The researchers are also enhancing awareness, evaluating control methods and identifying predictors associated with its presence. The researchers are developing prevention, detection and response strategies, as well as educational materials to help detect and eliminate the Asian longhorned tick. This project is enhancing awareness about this pest and empowering stakeholders to make informed pest management decisions. “Funding from FFAR, along with technical and resource support from our partners, has helped us detect this invasive tick species in eight Tennessee counties,” said Dr. Rebecca Trout Fryxell, a medical and veterinary entomologist in the UTIA Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology and research lead for this project. “We are finding them on both canines and cattle. By working with local producers, we are learning more about the life cycle of this species, and specifically when and where it is found on a farm. To address this threat, we have been busy increasing awareness. We are excited to start identifying solutions in the spring, when nymph populations are expected to be most problematic.” This year-long research effort is funded through FFAR’s ROAR program, which rapidly funds research and outreach in response to emerging or unanticipated threats to the nation’s food supply or agricultural systems. University of Tennessee contributed $150,000 to this $300,000 effort, matching FFAR’s contribution to this important research. ### Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization originally established by bipartisan Congressional support in the 2014 Farm Bill, builds unique partnerships to support innovative and actionable science addressing today's food and agriculture challenges. FFAR leverages public and private resources to increase the scientific and technological research, innovation, and partnerships critical to enhancing sustainable production of nutritious food for a growing global population. The FFAR Board of Directors is chaired by Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum, Ph.D., and includes ex officio representation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and National Science Foundation. Connect: @FoundationFAR | @RockTalking The University of Tennessee Institute of AgricultureThrough its land-grant mission of research, teaching and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions. ag.tennessee.edu.


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  • FFAR Grant Uses Supply-chain Modeling to Reduce Environmental Impacts in Dairy Industry

    WASHINGTON (November 13, 2019)— Dairy farming is an important component of the overall agricultural economy, however, both feed and milk production also release greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and impact local water bodies. Dairy’s environmental impacts differ locally across the country. Models that combine distribution networks and environmental data can help users of dairy products identify opportunities for achieving sustainability goals. The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) awarded World Wildlife Fund a $65,000 grant to develop localized sustainability data for the dairy value chain in collaboration with the University of Minnesota’s NorthStar Initiative for Sustainable Enterprise (NorthStar). Matching funding was provided by the Walton Family Foundation and the McDonald’s Corporation for a $130,000 total award. Currently, research models have provided insights into environmental impacts of the dairy industry at the national level. These data may include information about the environmental impacts of feed production, dairy processing and distribution of products. While national datasets are helpful in determining opportunities for improvement, they do not reflect significant regional/geographic differences across the United States. To identify local solutions that improve efficiency and environmental sustainability, information on environmental impacts at a local level are needed. “Localized environmental data provides dairy stakeholders and companies with information to help them prioritize sustainability solutions,” said FFAR’s Executive Director Sally Rockey. “In addition, the Food System Supply-chain Sustainability model (FoodS3) allows companies to understand the overlap in supply chains and tackle environmental impacts of dairy production together in prioritized geographic regions.” World Wildlife Fund and University of Minnesota’s NorthStar are developing a spatial model that links dairy feed, milk and associated environmental impacts at the county-level. To achieve this, researchers are expanding the FoodS3 model, a technology that estimates subnational commodity flows  of crops like corn, wheat and soy, to include dairy production. The model provides an estimated environmental impact of production for each county and enables companies that use dairy inputs to prioritize and focus solutions to reduce their environmental footprint. “The FoodS3 model will provide opportunities for collaboration across dairy supply chains amongst companies, co-ops, and other stakeholders to reduce GHG emissions and water impacts at scale,” said Ms. Sandra Vijn, the principal investigator of this project. “It will also help map the environmental impacts of dairy feed production, which will support the dairy and wider agricultural community with implementation of solutions to conserve natural resources such as soils, biodiversity and water.” This research will allow the dairy industry to develop targeted interventions to reduce environmental impacts across supply chains and milk-producing regions. This project assesses GHG emissions and irrigated water use in US dairy supply chains. Dairy industry stakeholders will be able to use the FoodS3 model, and the published data, to set baselines, prioritize areas for GHG emission and water reduction efforts, and implement solutions. ### About the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization established by bipartisan congressional support in the 2014 Farm Bill, builds unique partnerships to support innovative and actionable science addressing today’s food and agriculture challenges. FFAR leverages public and private resources to increase the scientific and technological research, innovation, and partnerships critical to enhancing sustainable production of nutritious food for a growing global population. The FFAR Board of Directors is chaired by Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum and includes ex officio representation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and National Science Foundation. Follow FFAR at Facebook and Twitter at @FoundationFAR and @RockTalking.


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  • FFAR and National Pork Board Develop Tools to Detect and Understand Spread of African Swine Fever Virus

    WASHINGTON (October XX, 2019) –The African Swine Fever virus (ASFV) is a highly contagious disease that spreads rapidly in pig populations. It has no impact on people, so pork remains safe to consume. To help keep the U.S. ASFV-free and protect the country’s pigs, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) and the National Pork Board (NPB) awarded $535,780 to research teams at Kansas State University and Iowa State University to study how ASFV survives and how to test pigs for the virus. ASFV has existed in Africa for decades. However, the virus is spreading due to changing production practices and increasing globalization. ASFV entered China in August 2018 and is now quickly infecting swine herds across the globe. The virus has also been reported in Europe. The current state of ASFV spread and concerns that it could enter North America increases risk for pig farming. The U.S., specifically, produces 125 million pigs annually. To date, a vaccine or treatment for the virus has yet to be developed although research is underway. Farmers are focused on ways to prevent the virus from entering the U.S. as losses would be staggering not only for the pork industry, but for other agriculture commodities as well. “We remain committed to investing Pork Checkoff funds in strategic ways, such as this collaboration to find new ways to protect our domestic swine herd from foreign animal disease threats,” said David Newman, president of the National Pork Board and a producer representing Arkansas. “Understanding how African swine fever survives can help us create better techniques for controlling the spread of this costly virus and reduce the odds of a domestic outbreak.” Even though ASFV does not affect human health, it threatens the $20 billion-dollar U.S. swine industry and the 550,000 American jobs created by the industry. To date, only limited research funding is available, which is why FFAR and the National Pork Board are collaborating on funding research projects to diagnose and manage an ASFV outbreak in the U.S. The main focus for producers is preventing the virus from entering the U.S. and preparing the industry by understanding the survivability mechanisms of the virus. This knowledge will help to identify strategies to keep it out of the country and assist in creating rapid and accurate virus identification techniques in case the virus does reach the U.S. Research funded in this collaboration includes studies by Kansas State University and Iowa State University. Kansas State University researchers seek to understand how ASFV survives and continues to infect other animals in various environments. If scientists understand how the disease spreads, they will be better able to control, or even stop, the spread of this virus. Additional work at Kansas State University is developing tests to detect ASFV. A third project is creating diagnostic test to quickly test entire herds for ASF. Iowa State University researchers are focusing on how best to identify foreign animal diseases at low prevalence in large commercial pens using oral fluid samples. This test allows farmers to string a rope in the pen, the pigs will naturally chew on the rope and then the rope can be tested to detect for traces of targeted viruses. “There is no time to waste. We must work quickly, and through partnership with the National Pork Board, to drive solutions pork producers can use to detect and manage infected animals if the virus reaches the U.S. This research may be the key to dramatically reducing any potential spread of African Swine Fever,” said Sally Rockey, Ph.D., FFAR executive director. “U.S. Pork producers are already coping with uncertainty across the entire sector and an outbreak of African Swine Fever would devastate American farmers, who are already struggling.” FFAR’s grant is being matched by funding from the National Pork Board, Cargill, Kemin, Purina Animal Nutrition and Kansas State University for a total investment of $535,780. ### Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization originally established by bipartisan Congressional support in the 2014 Farm Bill, builds unique partnerships to support innovative and actionable science addressing today's food and agriculture challenges. FFAR leverages public and private resources to increase the scientific and technological research, innovation, and partnerships critical to enhancing sustainable production of nutritious food for a growing global population. The FFAR Board of Directors is chaired by Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum, Ph.D., and includes ex officio representation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and National Science Foundation. Connect: @FoundationFAR | @RockTalking


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  • President and CEO of Land O’Lakes, Inc. Beth Ford joins FFAR Board of Directors

    WASHINGTON (September 26, 2019) – The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) is thrilled to announce that Beth Ford, President and CEO of Land O’Lakes, Inc. is joining the Board of Directors. Ford leads one of the country’s largest food and agricultural cooperatives. Since joining Land O’Lakes in 2011, she has led record performance and growth at the company as Chief Operating Officer of Land O’Lakes business, in addition to holding other executive positions at the Fortune 200 Company. Ford brings more than 20 years’ experience in technology and R&D in executive operations management and supply chain roles at International Flavors and Fragrances, Mobil Corporation, PepsiCo and Pepsi Bottling Company and Scholastic. “Beth Ford brings corporate leadership and a deep understanding of research and development to the table, making her a perfect fit for FFAR’s Board of Directors” noted FFAR Chairman of the Board and President of Mississippi State University Dr. Mark Keenum. “Ford’s experience and leadership will be much valued as we guide FFAR towards even greater success in generating actionable science to solve food and agriculture’s most pressing challenges.” Ford is changing the face of agricultural leadership. She is only one of 33 women leading Fortune 500 company and Land O’ Lakes’ first female CEO, a position she was promoted by an all-male board. FFAR similarly takes an audacious, collaborative approach to fill research gaps and seeks to energize the agricultural research field. The Foundation is excited to add Ford’s pioneering spirt to the FFAR board of Directors. “We are honored to have one of our country’s most dynamic business leaders join our Board of Directors” said FFAR’s Executive Director Dr. Sally Rockey. “Our Board has been instrumental in helping us become the innovative organization we are today. We look forward to working with Ford to continuing achieve FFAR’s goals.” ### About the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization established by bipartisan Congressional support in the 2014 Farm Bill, builds unique partnerships to support innovative and actionable science addressing today's food and agriculture challenges. FFAR leverages public and private resources to increase the scientific and technological research, innovation, and partnerships critical to enhancing sustainable production of nutritious food for a growing global population. The FFAR Board of Directors is chaired by Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum, Ph.D., and includes ex officio representation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and National Science Foundation. Connect: @FoundationFAR | @RockTalking Contact: Sarah Goldberg, 202.624.0704, Sgoldberg@foundationfar.org


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  • President of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation John R. Lumpkin Joins FFAR Board of Directors

    WASHINGTON (September 30, 2019) – The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) is excited to announce that John R. Lumpkin, President of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation, is joining the Board of Directors. “We are privileged to welcome Dr. Lumpkin to FFAR’s Board of Directors. His public health background is critical to connecting our work to consumers and the broader public health community,” noted FFAR Chairman of the Board and President of Mississippi State University Dr. Mark Keenum. “We look forward to incorporating Dr. Lumpkin’s unique insights on the nexus of agriculture, nutrition and health to ensure that our research benefits not just producers, but consumers as well.” Before being appointed President of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation earlier this year, Lumpkin served as Senior Vice President of Programs for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Lumpkin also served in various capacities at the Illinois Department of Public Health for 17 years, including serving as Director under three different governors. Lumpkin began his career in emergency medicine. He earned his MD and BMS degrees from Northwestern University Medical School and his MPH from the University of Illinois School of Public Health. He was the first African-American doctor trained in emergency medicine in the country after completing his residency at the University of Chicago. He then went on to serve on the faculty of the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, and University of Illinois at Chicago. “I am both excited, and honored, by this appointment,” said Dr. Lumpkin.  “Access to healthy food is one of the most significant factors in health, and I welcome this opportunity to be engaged with an organization helping to shape our country’s approach to food and nutritional insecurity and that is identifying opportunities within the nation’s food system to measurably improve health.” Lumpkin has had an impressive career in the health care system and his expertise encompasses emergency and bioterrorism preparedness, infectious disease prevention and control, immunization, supporting local health departments, reducing childhood obesity and more. Lumpkin’s impressive breadth of knowledge can help FFAR catalyze research that drives positive nutrition and health outcomes. “We are honored to have Dr. Lumpkin, a nationally renowned leader in public health, join our Board of Directors,” said FFAR Executive Director Dr. Sally Rockey. “John’s extensive experience as a health practitioner, academic and government and foundation leader will be invaluable as we grow our portfolio with research at intersection of agriculture and health.” ### About the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization established by bipartisan Congressional support in the 2014 Farm Bill, builds unique partnerships to support innovative and actionable science addressing today's food and agriculture challenges. FFAR leverages public and private resources to increase the scientific and technological research, innovation, and partnerships critical to enhancing sustainable production of nutritious food for a growing global population. The FFAR Board of Directors is chaired by Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum, Ph.D., and includes ex officio representation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and National Science Foundation. Connect: @FoundationFAR | @RockTalking Contact: Sarah Goldberg, 202.624.0704, Sgoldberg@foundationfar.org


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  • Scientists Find Ways to Improve Cassava, A ‘Crop of Inequality’ Featured at Goalkeepers

     NEW YORK CITY — Today, as world leaders gather for the UN General Assembly, hundreds of emerging leaders focused on fighting global inequality came together at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s third annual Goalkeepers* event in New York City. Among them, University of Illinois scientist Amanda De Souza highlighted a crop of inequality called cassava, which has starchy, tuberous roots that sustain more than 500 million people in sub-Saharan Africa, yet cassava has been largely neglected by research and development compared to the staple crops of wealthier regions. Recently, De Souza and a team from Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE) published a study in New Phytologist that identified opportunities to improve cassava yields—which have not increased for more than fifty years in Africa. “For smallholder farmers who depend on tiny plots of land to feed and support their families, cassava is a ‘backup’ crop when other crops fail,” De Souza said at Goalkeepers, where she described her work to improve cassava through the RIPE project. “Especially for women, who represent a majority of smallholder farmers, cassava is a savings account. It is a resource they can harvest all year to pay for things like medical treatments and their children’s school fees.” The RIPE project is an international effort to develop more productive crops by improving photosynthesis—the natural, sunlight-powered process that all plants use to fix carbon dioxide into carbohydrates that fuel growth, development, and ultimately yields. RIPE is supported by the Gates Foundation, the U.S. Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), and the U.K. Government’s Department for International Development (DFID). Led by RIPE researchers at Illinois and Lancaster University, this study examined factors that limit photosynthesis in 11 popular, or farmer-preferred, African varieties of cassava with the goal to eventually help cassava overcome photosynthetic limitations to boost yields. First, the team examined the photosynthetic limitations of cassava exposed to constant high levels of light, like a plant would experience at midday with cloudless skies. In these conditions, and like many crops, cassava’s photosynthesis is limited (by as much as 80 percent) by two factors: One half is due to the low speed that carbon dioxide molecules travel through the leaf to reach the enzyme that drives photosynthesis, called Rubisco. The other half is because Rubisco sometimes fixes oxygen molecules by mistake, wasting large amounts of the plant’s energy. Next, the team evaluated the limitations of photosynthesis under fluctuating light conditions. Surprisingly, and unlike most crops, Rubisco was not the primary limiting factor when leaves transitioned from shade to sunlight, like when the sun comes out from behind a cloud. Instead, cassava is limited by stomata, which are microscopic pores on the surface of leaves that open to allow carbon dioxide to enter the plant but at the cost of water that escapes through these same pores. Stomata are partially closed in the shade and open in response to light when Rubisco is active. “Rubisco is the major limiting factor during this transition from shade to light for most plants, including rice, wheat, and soybean,” De Souza said. “Cassava is the first crop that we have found where stomata limit photosynthesis during these light transitions more than Rubisco.” Illinois’ Postdoctoral Researcher Yu Wang created a computer model to quantify how much cassava would gain by overcoming this limitation. According to the leaf-level model, if stomata could open three times faster, cassava could fix 6 percent more carbon dioxide each day. In addition, cassava’s water use efficiency—the ratio of biomass produced to water lost by the plant—could be improved by 16 percent. In addition, the team found that it takes as long as 20 minutes for cassava to transition from shade to full light and reach the maximum rate of photosynthesis, which is quite slow compared to other crops such as rice that can transition in just a few minutes. However, the fastest variety of cassava could transition almost three times faster and fix 65 percent more carbon dioxide into carbohydrates than the slowest variety. Closing this gap is another opportunity to improve cassava’s productivity. “Plants are constantly moving from shade to light as leaves shift and clouds pass overhead,” said RIPE Director Stephen Long, Ikenberry Endowed University Chair of Crop Sciences and Plant Biology at Illinois’ Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, who contributed to this study. “We hope that the variation that we discovered during these light transitions among cassava varieties can be used to identify new traits, and therefore opportunities for us to improve cassava’s photosynthetic efficiency and yield potential.” Editor’s Notes: *2019 marks the third year of Goalkeepers, an initiative dedicated to accelerating progress towards the Global Goals. The Goalkeepers annual event in New York is a gathering of approximately 400 world leaders, global activists, and community changemakers, using powerful stories, data and partnerships to highlight progress achieved, hold governments accountable and bring together a new generation of leaders to address the world’s major challenges. A one-minute video about this work as well as photos and captions are available online. The paper “Photosynthesis across African cassava germplasm is limited by Rubisco and mesophyll conductance at steady‐state, but by stomatal conductance in fluctuating light” is published by the journal New Phytologist is available online or by request. Co-authors of this publication also include Douglas J. Orr and Elizabete Carmo‐Silva. About RIPE Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE) is engineering staple food crops to more efficiently turn the sun’s energy into food to sustainably increase worldwide food productivity, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the U.S. Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, and the U.K. Government’s Department for International Development. RIPE is led by the University of Illinois in partnership with The Australian National University, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Lancaster University, Louisiana State University, University of California, Berkeley, University of Essex, and U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.


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  • FFAR Grant Maps Corn Drought Tolerance Genes

    WASHINGTON (September 11, 2019) –The majority of America’s corn farmers rely on seasonal rainfall to water crops, yet extreme weather and drought present a growing challenge to the corn industry. The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) is awarding an $1.8 million grant through the Crops of the Future Collaborative to the University of Wisconsin-Madison to identify genetic markers in corn associated with drought tolerance and thereby accelerate the breeding of drought-resistant varieties. FFAR provided $900,000 and Inari, KWS and Syngenta contributed the matching funds for this three-year project through their participation in Crops of the Future. “The future of farming means growing more food with fewer resources,” said FFAR Executive Director Sally Rockey. “Increased climate instability will continue shrinking aquifers and exacerbating droughts. FFAR is investing in this project to produce corn varieties designed to thrive with limited water. This project, supported through the FFAR Crops of the Future collaborative, ultimately helps farmers prepare for impending climate variability.” Drought is an incredibly complex stress and one that reduces corn crop production. If corn plants receive insufficient water when plants are young, their root systems become underdeveloped. The smaller roots lead to nutrient deficiency. Drought stress during the flowering and grain-production periods can lead to reduced kernel size and lower crop yield. The 2012 drought saw corn production fall by 4 billion bushels from pre-drought estimates, leading to a loss of approximately $22 billion for America’s farmers. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are focusing on drought stress during corn’s flowering and grain-growing lifecycle stages. By identifying the genes that together affect drought tolerance, the team can accelerate the development of drought-tolerant corn varieties. “Nearly four million acres of corn are grown in Wisconsin, making it an important crop in our local economy,” says Dean Kate VandenBosch of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at UW–Madison. “I am pleased that we can contribute our expertise in corn genetics to understand the fundamental biological mechanisms that make the plant more resilient. This will lead to more efficient varieties benefiting farmers, consumers and the ecosystem.” The Crops of the Future Collaborative convenes industry participants to collectively fund and execute research to fill knowledge gaps common across the industry. With knowledge of these breeding tools, the consortia participants can create corn varieties better suited to a changing climate. “Collaborating in this way to map Corn Drought Tolerance Genes is crucial to enabling crops to ‘keep up’ with environmental stressors and climate change,” said Trevor Hohls, Syngenta global head of seeds development. “Syngenta is excited to partner with FFAR and the academic community to bring direct benefit to farmers and help grow our scientific talent base.” “As we look to the crops of the future, our farmers and agricultural systems will continue to be dealing with greater challenges such as climate instability and water availability. At KWS, we look beyond short-term success and focus on the development of sustainable and visionary solutions that increase food security and ensure a healthy world for future generations. This project is well aligned with our mission and we are pleased to be part of this public-private collaborative effort,” said Dr. Derek Bartlem, Managing Director/Head of Research USA for KWS. “Collaborations drive the change that addresses critical problems we face globally in agriculture,” said Mark Stowers, Chief Operations Officer and President of North America at Inari. “Discovering the genetics behind drought tolerance will be important in the work we do at Inari to address to not only the needs of growers, but those of the planet as well.” This project is an expansion of a 2018 grant FFAR awarded to the University of Wisconsin. The $100,000 seed grant, co-funded by KWS and Syngenta, established a research nursery to launch this larger effort. ### About the Crops of the Future Collaborative The Crops of the Future Collaborative is a public-private, multi-participant consortium convened by the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research. The Collaborative brings together companies and leading research organizations to accelerate the development of new crop varieties that address challenges in food and agriculture. The Collaborative will leverage the knowledge, capabilities, and financial resources of participants to expand the scientific understanding of characteristics giving rise to complex traits that crops will need to adapt to changing environments. CONTACT: Sarah Goldberg, 202-624-0704, sgoldberg@foundationfar.org About KWS* KWS is one of the world’s leading plant breeding companies. In the fiscal year 2018/19 more than 5,000 employees in 70 countries generated net sales of EUR 1,068 million and earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) of EUR 133 million. A company with a tradition of family ownership, KWS has operated independently for more than 160 years. It focuses on plant breeding and the production and sale of seed for corn, sugarbeet, cereals, rapeseed and sunflowers and vegetables. KWS uses leading-edge plant breeding methods to increase farmers’ yields and to improve resistance to diseases, pests and abiotic stress. To that end, the company invested approximately EUR 200 million last fiscal year in research and development. *All indications excluding the results from the companies accounted for using the equity method AGRELIANT GENETICS LLC., AGRELIANT GENETICS INC. and KENFENG – KWS SEEDS CO., LTD. For more information: www.kws.com. Follow us on Twitter® at https://twitter.com/KWS_Group.


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  • 2019 FFAR Fellows Cohort Announced

    Seventeen Doctoral Candidates Receive Fellowships to Further Food & Agriculture Research RALEIGH and WASHINGTON (August 13, 2019) — Developing the food and agriculture scientists of tomorrow starts by investing in them today. The Foundation for Food and Agriculture (FFAR) is excited to announce the second cohort of FFAR Fellows, a unique three-year fellowship that prepares the next generation of food and agriculture scientists for the workforce by providing hands-on support and mentoring from industry. FFAR awarded the 2019 FFAR Fellowship to seventeen doctoral candidates across the country who are conducting research that supports one of FFAR’s six Challenge Areas. Employers agree that US universities could better prepare a career-ready STEM workforce by enhancing professional development opportunities and teaching “soft skills” to create well-rounded graduates. Furthermore, many food and agriculture research students are not exposed to the many career opportunities available to them outside of the laboratory. The FFAR Fellowship, established in 2018, addresses these needs by funding research and professional development opportunities for 48 students over three years. The FFAR Fellows Program pairs doctoral candidates with academic and industry mentors to equip them with professional development and critical workforce skills. Each industry sponsor matches FFAR funding to double the investment in early-career scientists workforce development. Fellows also engage with their peers in professional development programming both virtually and at the annual one-week residential session, which is taking place this week at North Carolina State University. Throughout the Fellowship, participants learn team building, project and time management and science communication from their mentors and one another. “The FFAR Fellows Program provides selected students with hands-on mentorship and valuable professional development experience,” said FFAR’s Executive Director Sally Rockey. “This fellowship not only invests in the research conducted by the students; it better prepares them for the scientific careers of the futures by broadening their skill sets." The FFAR Fellowship program is led by the Academic Programs Office at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at North Carolina State University. “The Fellows are an impressive group of Ph.D. students whom we know will have a lasting effect on food and agriculture," said Dr. John Dole, who manages the program at North Carolina State University. “The FFAR Fellows program will give them the tools and training to hit the ground running and make an impact from day one in their future positions.” The following students comprise the 2019 FFAR Fellow cohort:Alex Batson, Washington State University Scott Cosseboom, University of Maryland Maria Gannett, Cornell University Natalie Goh, University of California-Berkeley Sihui Ni, North Carolina State University Nate Korth, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Miriam Martin, Kansas State University Kelsey Peterson, University of Minnesota Linda Beckett, Purdue University Gwen Donley, Case Western Reserve University Karlinton Flores, North Carolina State University Danielle Gelardi, University of California-Davis, Annemarie Krug, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Krista Marshall, University of California-Davis Dhruv Patel, University of California-Berkeley Inocent Ritte, Tuskegee University Danielle Stevenson, University of California-Riverside### Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization originally established by bipartisan Congressional support in the 2014 Farm Bill, builds unique partnerships to support innovative and actionable science addressing today's food and agriculture challenges. FFAR leverages public and private resources to increase the scientific and technological research, innovation, and partnerships critical to enhancing sustainable production of nutritious food for a growing global population. The FFAR Board of Directors is chaired by Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum, Ph.D., and includes ex officio representation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and National Science Foundation. Connect: @FoundationFAR | @RockTalking


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  • FFAR Launches Plant Protein Enhancement Project

    WASHINGTON D.C. (August 7, 2019) – Population growth and expanding food industry uses are driving an increasing global demand for plant-based protein. Future population growth is expected in regions where the primary protein source is plants. To enhance the protein yield of plant-based staple crops, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research’s (FFAR) Crops of the Future Collaborative (COTF) is today launching the Plant Protein Enhancement Project. This project will fund competitive research grants to enhance the supply chain for plant-based protein in a profitable and sustainable manner. “The Plant Protein Enhancement Project aims to create new tools and resources to feed growing demand,” said Crops of the Future Collaborative Director Jeff Rosichan. “Agricultural research strives to find sustainable ways to feed more people. Enhancing the protein content of staple crops, like pulses, millet and lentils, will achieve that objective and improve the lives of millions of people around the world.” The Project supports innovative research that improves the characteristics, yields and total protein in plants for human consumption. Specifically, FFAR seeks to fund research that bolsters new or underutilized protein crops, enhances the functional and nutritional properties for plant-based food applications, or performs market-based analyses for proteins or productions systems for plant-based foods. All applicants must make a minimum request of $300,000. Matching funds are not required for this program. Most commercially available plant-based protein ingredients come from only two percent of the 150 plant species on which today’s global food supply depends. Investigating genetics and breeding of plant-based proteins has the potential to yield sustainable and nutritious protein sources. Such research can provide unexplored plant protein crops with increases in yield, robustness and disease resistance. This research can decrease the cost of these novel protein sources and increase yield, making them more attractive to farmers seeking new crop opportunities. The Plant Protein Enhancement Project request for applications, along with full eligibility and application details, are available on the FFAR website. ### About the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization established by bipartisan congressional support in the 2014 Farm Bill, builds unique partnerships to support innovative and actionable science addressing today’s food and agriculture challenges. FFAR leverages public and private resources to increase the scientific and technological research, innovation, and partnerships critical to enhancing sustainable production of nutritious food for a growing global population. The FFAR Board of Directors is chaired by Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum and includes ex officio representation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and National Science Foundation. Follow FFAR at Facebook and Twitter at @FoundationFAR and @RockTalking.


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