• 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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  • Missing link in algal photosynthesis found, offers opportunity to improve crop yields

    BATON ROUGE, La (August 6, 2019) —  Photosynthesis is the natural process plants and algae utilize to capture sunlight and fix carbon dioxide into energy-rich sugars that fuel growth, development, and in the case of crops, yield. Algae evolved specialized carbon dioxide concentrating mechanisms (CCM) to photosynthesize much more efficiently than plants. This week, in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team from Louisiana State University (LSU) and the University of York discovered a previously unexplained step in the CCM of green algae—which is key to developing a functional CCM in food crops to boost productivity. “Most crops are plagued by photorespiration, which occurs when Rubisco—the enzyme that drives photosynthesis—cannot differentiate between life-sustaining carbon dioxide and oxygen molecules that waste large amounts of the plant’s energy,” said James Moroney, the Streva Alumni Professor at LSU and member of Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE). “Ultimately, our goal is to engineer a CCM in crops to surround Rubisco with more carbon dioxide, making it more efficient and less likely to grab oxygen molecules. Led by the University of Illinois, RIPE is an international research project that is engineering crops to be more productive by improving photosynthesis with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the U.S. Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), and the U.K. Government’s Department for International Development (DFID). Whereas carbon dioxide diffuses across cell membranes relatively easily, bicarbonate (HCO3-) diffuses about 50,000 times slower due to its negative charge. The green algae Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, nicknamed Chlamy, transports bicarbonate across three cellular membranes into the compartment that houses Rubisco, called a pyrenoid, where the bicarbonate is converted back into carbon dioxide and fixed into sugar. “Before now, we did not understand how bicarbonate crossed the third threshold to enter the pyrenoid,” said Ananya Mukherjee, who led this work as a graduate student at LSU before joining the University of Nebraska–Lincoln as a postdoctoral researcher. “For years, we tried to find the missing component, but it turns out there are three transport proteins involved in this step—which were the missing link in our understanding of the CCM of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii.” “While other transport proteins are known, we speculate that these could be shared with crops more easily because Chlamy is more closely related to plants than other photosynthetic algae, such as cyanobacteria or diatoms,” said Luke Mackinder, a lecturer at York who collaborated with the RIPE team on this work with support from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Leverhulme Trust. Creating a functional CCM in crops requires three things: a compartment to store Rubisco, transporters to bring bicarbonate to the compartment, and specialized enzymes to turn bicarbonate into carbon dioxide. In a 2018 study, RIPE colleagues at The Australian National University demonstrated that they could add a compartment called a carboxysome, similar to a pyrenoid, in crops. This study completes the list of possible transport proteins that could shuttle bicarbonate from outside the cell to this carboxysome structure in crops’ leaf cells. “Our research suggests that creating a functional CCM in crops could help crops conserve more water and could significantly reduce the energy-taxing process of photorespiration in crops—that worsens as temperatures rise,” Moroney said. “The development of climate-resilient crops that can photosynthesize more efficiently will be vital to protecting our food security.” ### 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 production, 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.  Editor’s Notes: A one-minute video about this work as well as photos and captions are available online. “Thylakoid localized bestrophin-like proteins are essential for the CO2 concentrating mechanism of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii” is published by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and available online or by request. CONTACT: Colleen Klemczewski, 202-204-2605, cklemczewski@foundationfar.org


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  • OFRF and FFAR Award Two Grants that Tackle Soil Health Challenges

    SANTA CRUZ AND WASHINGTON D.C. (August 1, 2019) -- The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) and the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) are funding two soil health research projects that examine how on-farm diversification practices control weeds and affect crop yields. OFRF and FFAR funded these two projects as part of a larger initiative to support soil health research and promote environmental sustainability. A grant to Dr. Jed Eberly at Montana State University was announced earlier this year. Implementing diversification practices, such as crop rotations and cover cropping, is one way organic farmers build soil health. Efficient use of organic fertilizers in combination with these practices can enhance soil fertility but determining how much organic fertilizer to apply is a key challenge; too much fertilizer wastes money and pollutes the environment, while too little can impede crop growth. However, there is still much to learn about how diversification practices affect the availability of nutrients in the soil. Addressing this question would help farmers reduce added costs and environmental impacts associated with nutrient losses from organic fertilizers. At UC Berkeley, a team led by Timothy Bowles, Assistant Professor of Agroecology, is working to help solve this problem. This research will allow farmers make more informed decisions about nutrient management, in particular which type of organic fertilizer to use and how to time fertility applications on diversified organic farms. The second project focuses on the southern region of the U.S., an area where challenges in weed, insect, and soil fertility management have made it hard to meet the steady demand for organic sweet potatoes. Currently, many organic sweet potato farmers depend on repeated cultivation to manage weeds, a process that is energy and labor intensive, and damaging to soil health. Their crops are also regularly damaged by invasive pests. For example, the wireworm can damage up to 40 percent of the sweet potato crop in North Carolina, negatively impacting farmers’ profitability. Led by Alex Woodley, an Assistant Professor at North Carolina State University, this project assesses the viability of annual winter cover crop systems as an effective tool for weed and insect control. The project also evaluates the effects of increasing rates of organic nitrogen fertilizer in each cover crop treatment. This systems-level approach has the potential to provide innovative management techniques to organic sweet potato farmers in North Carolina that protect soil health. “We are pleased to partner with FFAR to fund this innovative research,” said Dr. Jed Eberly at Montana State University, OFRF's Executive Director. “The goal is to help organic producers and others interested in building soil health make more informed decisions about managing fertility on their farms and ranches.” “Soil health plays a critical role in supporting productive, sustainable agriculture from the ground-up,” said FFAR’s Executive Director Sally Rockey. “Investing in innovative soil health management techniques benefits the environment, enhances crop productivity and supports farmer profitability.” FFAR funding was matched by Lundberg Family Farms, National Co+op Grocers and Driscolls. ### 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. About Organic Farming Research Foundation The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) is a non-profit foundation that works to foster the improvement and widespread adoption of organic farming systems. OFRF cultivates organic research, education, and federal policies that bring more farmers and acreage into organic production.


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  • Global Collaborative Launches OpenTEAM™, the First Open Source Technology Ecosystem In the World To Address Soil Health and Mitigate Climate Change

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U9YZ4H10vesWolfe’s Neck Center, Stonyfield Organic and FFAR Convene Cross-Sector Team of Academic Institutions, Farmers, Food Companies, and Innovators OpenTEAM Will Provide Any Farmer, Anywhere with Free Access to Site-Specific Data, Providing Quantitative Feedback on Millions of Acres of Farmland by 2024 Freeport, Maine– July 31, 2019 - Wolfe’s Neck Center for Agriculture & the Environment, together with founding collaborators Stonyfield Organic, the USDA's LandPKS project and Foundation for Food and Agriculture (FFAR), today announced the launch of OpenTEAM, the first open source technology ecosystem in the world to address soil health and mitigate climate change. OpenTEAM is projected to provide quantitative feedback on millions of acres of farmland by 2024. OpenTEAM, or Open Technology Ecosystem for Agricultural Management, is a farmer-driven, interoperable platform to provide farmers around the world with the best possible knowledge to improve soil health. Currently, farmers are faced with an ever-expanding assortment of decision-making software; however, these tools often do not “communicate” with each other, making it difficult to transfer, share or use by farmers and scientists or in supply chains. With OpenTEAM, farmers are not only in control of their own data, but also able to enter data once to access all available tools in the OpenTEAM collaborative. OpenTEAM offers field-level carbon measurement, digital management records, remote sensing, predictive analytics and input and economic management decision support in a connected platform that reduces the need for farmer data entry while improving access to a wide array of tools. The platform will support adaptive soil health management for farms of all scales, geographies and production systems. OpenTEAM will also accelerate scientific understanding of soil health by providing more high-quality data to researchers collaborating on the project. To date, more than one dozen organizations have joined to develop, fund, and implement OpenTEAM. These include The Soil Health Partnership; General Mills; Colorado State University/USDA-NRCS Comet Farm; Applied GeoSolutions, LLC; DNDC Applications, Research and Training; Dagan, Inc.; Michigan State University Global Change Learning Lab; Purdue University Open Technology and Systems Center (OATS); University of British Columbia Center for Sustainable Food Systems; Regen Network; Our.Sci; Quick Carbon at Yale F & ES; U.S. Cover Crop Council decision tools; Sustainability Innovation Lab at Colorado (SILC); The University of Colorado Boulder; and FarmOS. Wolfe’s Neck Center will coordinate OpenTEAM from its headquarters on more than 600 acres of conserved landscape and farmland on the coast of Maine. Implementation and demonstration will begin in fall 2019. Field testing will continue in the 2020 growing season across the U.S. and international hub farm networks. “At Wolfe’s Neck Center, we are collaborating to create solutions that address climate change through regenerative agriculture,” said Dave Herring, executive director, Wolfe’s Neck Center for Agriculture & the Environment. “OpenTEAM pairs agriculture with open source technology to accelerate soil health right here in Maine and around the globe.” The more than $10 million public-private collaboration is made possible by a $5 million grant from FFAR, with more than $5 million matching contributions coming from across the network, including a $200,000 grant from The Stonyfield Foundation and $200,000 in in-kind contributions and a grant from Stonyfield Organic. “Optimizing soil management practices not only improves soil health, but also protects the environment,” said FFAR’s Executive Director Sally Rockey. “At scale, OpenTEAM can improve soil management practices for farmers around the globe and mitigate the effects of climate change.” “Stonyfield is strongly committed to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions,” said Britt Lundgren, director of organic and sustainable agriculture at Stonyfield Organic. “Over half of our emissions come from agriculture, so in order to hit our target we know we need to work with the farms who provide our ingredients and help them reduce their emissions and sequester more carbon. OpenTEAM will enable us to do this, and track farms’ progress so we can be confident we’re hitting our goals.” "We are inspired by the level of collaboration, leadership and vision our OpenTEAM partners have provided,” said Dorn Cox, PhD, research director, Wolfe’s Neck Center. “Through the power of open technology, we aim to make what was invisible visible and in so doing the unvalued valuable.” For more information on OpenTEAM or becoming an OpenTEAM collaborator, please visit: https://www.wolfesneck.org/openteam/ or contact Dr. Dorn Cox at dcox@wolfesneck.org. ### About Wolfe’s Neck Center for Agriculture and the Environment (WNC) Wolfe’s Neck Center is a pioneer in regenerative agriculture, a nonprofit research and education center, and a working organic farm. Situated on over 600 acres of conserved coastal landscape in Freeport, Maine, WNC’s mission is to transform our relationship with farming and food for a healthier planet. In 2019, WNC dedicated a new $1 million facility to house a first-of-its-kind training program for new and transitioning organic dairy farmers. Follow Wolfe’s Neck Center on Twitter at @wolfesneck and on Facebook and Instagram at @wolfesneckcenter. About Stonyfield Organic As the country’s leading organic yogurt maker, Stonyfield Organic takes care with everything it puts into its products and everything it keeps out. By saying no to toxic persistent pesticides, artificial hormones, antibiotics and GMOs, Stonyfield has been saying yes to healthy food, healthy people, and a healthy planet for 35 years. Stonyfield, a Certified B-Corp, is also helping to protect and preserve the next generation of farmers and families through programs like its Direct Milk Supply and Wolfe’s Neck Organic Training Program as well as StonyFIELDS, a nationwide, multi-year initiative to help keep families free from toxic persistent pesticides in parks and playing fields across the country. Follow Stonyfield on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter at @Stonyfield. About LandPKS The Land-Potential Knowledge System (LandPKS) is a mobile app and platform that supports nearly all approaches to land management by facilitating access to soil information and knowledge, and helping farmers and ranchers to track progress towards management objectives. As a fully functional system for which data privacy functions will become available in late 2019, LandPKS will serve as one of a growing number of gateways to the expanding network or “ecosystem” of OpenTEAM tools and technologies. LandPKS development is led by the USDA-ARS in cooperation with the University of Colorado Boulder, New Mexico State University, and collaborators throughout the world. Follow LandPKS on Facebook and Twitter at @LandPKS. About Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, FFAR 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. Follow FFAR at Facebook and Twitter at @FoundationFAR and @RockTalking.


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  • FFAR Grant to USDA-ARS Bolsters Soybean Resiliency to Climate Change

     WASHINGTON, DC (July 22, 2019) — In recognition of the crucial role soybeans play in U.S. agriculture, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) awarded a $942,000 Seeding Solutions Grant to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS), alongside scientific partners North Carolina State University and VIB (Institute for Biotechnology in Flanders, Belgium), to improve soybean crop resiliency. The FFAR grant has been matched with funding from Benson Hill Biosystems, BASF, and VIB for a total $1.89 million award. Soybean is a complete source of protein that contains all the essential amino acid for human nutrition. Soy meal demand is projected to grow as protein demand increases worldwide. This surge in demand is happening concurrently with global climate shifts and more frequent extreme weather, including cold snaps and heat waves. Extreme weather is devastating to soybean crop yields and nutritional content, making it imperative that researchers determine how to increase soybean resiliency in response to climate change. “Our research demonstrates that the response of soybean protein content to temperature varies among different genetic varieties,” said Dr. Anna Locke (USDA-ARS), the principal investigator of this project. “Using deep learning techniques, we can analyze the effects of weather variability on soybean yield and protein production and work to develop high protein varieties that can withstand the stresses associated with changing climates.” Dr. Anna Locke and her team, including co-principal investigators of this project, Dr. Ive De Smet (VIB) and Dr. Ross Sozzani (NCSU), will use advanced machine learning algorithms to leverage the natural genetic diversity of plants and improve the sustainability, nutrition and flavor profiles of crops with greater precision than previously possible. Researchers will evaluate key temperature stress regulators, develop a test to rapidly screen soybean genotypes for temperature tolerance, and ultimately provide data that will allow crop breeders to identify new temperature tolerant soybean varieties more efficiently. “We share FFAR’s vision to foster innovation and collaboration to address complex challenges in food production,” said Matthew Crisp, CEO and co-founder of Benson Hill Biosystems. “By applying data analytics and machine learning, we can gain insight into how to optimize the nutrition and yield of soybean simultaneously for different climatic conditions.” “Soybean is a fundamentally important crop that plays a vital role in a healthy food system,” said Sally Rockey, Ph.D., FFAR’s executive director. “FFAR is excited to support this groundbreaking research that will increase our understanding of the relationship between a soybean plant’s genetic makeup, its environment, and its performance.” FFAR’s Seeding Solutions Grant is an open call for bold ideas that address a pressing food and agriculture issues in one of the Foundation’s Challenge Areas. USDA ARS’s research supports FFAR’s 2018 Protein Challenge Area, currently the Next Generation Crops Area. FFAR’s work in this area supports the advancement of novel, nutritious, profitable, and resilient farm crops. ### 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 and includes ex officio representation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and National Science Foundation. Connect: @FoundationFAR | @RockTalking CONTACT: Colleen Klemczewski, (202) 204-2605, cklemczewski@foundationfar.org


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  • FFAR Awards $1 Million Grant to Combat Water Scarcity and Increase Yields

    MANHATTAN, KS and WASHINGTON (July 16, 2019) – The production of food and fiber consumes 70 percent of the world’s water, placing a burden on farmers to increase water productivity and efficiency. The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) awarded a $1 million Seeding Solutions grant to Kansas State University to increase water-efficient crop yields. Kansas State University, Kansas Grain Sorghum Commission, Corteva Agriscience, Collaborative Sorghum Investment Program, and University of California matched the FFAR grant for a total $2 million investment. Many regions in the United States struggle with water scarcity, which threatens ecosystem sustainability and farmers’ livelihoods. To combat the effects of water scarcity, farmers need access to more diversified farming systems that balance water conservation with crop productivity and environmental sustainability. Crops like sorghum can diversify the farming system to balance conservation with productivity while supporting the vitality of rural communities. However, the use of these crops has declined partly because of the lag in genetic gain for minor crops, when compared to other crops like corn, and soybeans. Scientists have developed a genome-to-phenome (G2P) breeding approach that combines crop modeling, genomic prediction and managed-stress experiments to increase water-limited yields in corn. This transformative approach that improves crops using G2P breeding was developed by project collaborator, Corteva. Kansas State University is using the FFAR grant to extend the G2P approach in underutilized crops like sorghum. Researchers are optimistic that if water-efficient crops produce greater yields, farmers will be more willing to diversify their fields. “This project has the potential to increase yields of crops that grow using less water, and when planted alongside leading crops, can better distribute the existing water in the soil and supporting thriving farms,” said Sally Rockey, FFAR’s executive director. “Using this new approach, Kansas State can boost yields and conserve limited water resources. This work could be a breakthrough for sustainability and profitability.” Researchers are using sorghum as a model to determine how this breeding approach can effectively lay the groundwork for increased yields for water-efficient crops. The successful implementation of this breeding approach could increase crop diversity and overall productivity of crops in water-scarce environments. This project engages early career plant breeders and scientists to learn and adopt this breeding technique. “Getting high yield and water efficiency from the same crop is a challenge, but G2P breeding navigates around the trade-offs” says Dr. Geoffrey Morris, Associate Professor, Agronomy at Kansas State University “We’re excited to bring the G2P approach to sorghum and other water-efficient crops”.” FFAR’s Seeding Solutions grant program is an open call for bold ideas that address a pressing food and agriculture issues in one of the Foundation’s Challenge Areas. This research supports FFAR’s 2018 Overcoming Water Scarcity Challenge Area, currently the Sustainable Water Management Challenge Area. FFAR’s work in this area focuses on increasing water availability and water efficiency for agricultural use, reducing agricultural water pollution and developing water reuse technologies. ### 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 | Corteva Agriscience Corteva Agriscience provides farmers around the world with the most complete input portfolio in the industry to enable them to maximize yield and profitability — including some of the most recognized brands in agriculture: Pioneer®, Granular®, Brevant™ seeds, as well as award-winning Crop Protection products — while bringing new products to market through its robust pipeline of active chemistry and technologies. The company is committed to working with stakeholders throughout the food system as it fulfills its promise to enrich the lives of those who produce and those who consume, ensuring progress for generations to come. Corteva Agriscience became an independent public company on June 1, 2019 and was previously the Agriculture Division of DowDuPont. More information can be found at www.corteva.com. Connect: @Corteva Kansas Grain Sorghum Commission Kansas Grain Sorghum Commission provides value to Kansas sorghum farmers through investments in research, market development, education and promotion. Kansas State University K‑State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well‑being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county extension offices, experiment fields, area extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K‑State campus in Manhattan. For more information, visit www.ksre.ksu.edu


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  • Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research Announces 100th Grant

    Browning, MT (July 15, 2019) — The Foundation for Food and Agriculture (FFAR), a non-profit organization established by the 2014 Farm Bill, awarded its 100th grant at the 2019 North American Indian Days Grand Entry on July 12, 2019. The grant was awarded to Montana State University, in concert with the Blackfeet Nation, to develop best practices in natural resource management, climate adaptation and water governance that are consistent with the Tribe’s cultural values. Below is a statement from FFAR’s Executive Director Dr. Sally Rockey in recognition of FFAR’s 100th grant: “I am proud to announce that FFAR awarded our 100th grant to Montana State University and the Blackfeet Nation for research supporting sustainable agriculture in Blackfeet Nation. The grant is emblematic of FFAR’s mission and values. Not only will this grant combat growing diet-related health issues, it will also support the development of best practices in natural resource management, climate adaptation and water governance. FFAR is committed to building public private partnerships to fund innovate science that provides every person access to affordable, nutritious food grown on thriving farms. This grant exemplifies the transformative research that FFAR is thrilled to support. “I am also proud of how far the Foundation has come since its establishment. FFAR was founded in the 2014 Farm Bill, we awarded our first grant in 2016 and are now celebrating our 100th grant. When I started this job in 2015, we were a team of three along with our wonderful Board of Directors. We had the daunting task of building an organization from the ground up, and yet, everyone involved shared a belief in FFAR’s potential to fund truly innovative agriculture research. “Five years later, we’re a team of 20 and we’re bringing innovative research that tackles food and agriculture’s most intractable challenges to fruition. Through our work with over 280 funding partners, FFAR is pushing the boundary of agriculture innovation, finding opportunities to protect the environment, improve health and help farmers thrive. “FFAR continues to pioneer the next frontier of scientific innovation, funding projects that catalyze breakthroughs benefiting farmers, the environment and the global community.” ### 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 Awards 100th Grant to Support Sustainable Agriculture in Blackfeet Nation

    Joseph Pecora PhotographyBROWNING, MONTANA (July 10, 2019) — The Blackfeet Nation (Amskapi Piikani) in Montana is home to one of the largest intact ecosystems in the lower forty-eight states. Yet, despite their rich agricultural diversity, the Piikani people suffer from diet-related health disparities and persistent poverty. The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) awarded its 100th grant to Montana State University and the Blackfeet Nation to develop best practices in natural resource management, climate adaptation and water governance that are consistent with the Amskapi Piikani cultural values. The Blackfeet Nation, Montana State University’s Department of Native American Studies and its Native Land Project, and other Blackfeet Nation partners have provided matching support for a total project investment of $2 million. The Blackfeet Nation’s primary industry is agriculture, with reservation lands supporting about 500,000 acres of grain and forage production, and over 1,000,000 acres of grazing lands for cattle, sheep and horses. With an abundance of rich natural resources at their disposal, the Piikani people can sustainably produce, distribute and consume food grown on their lands. From 2016 to 2019, a coalition of Piikani representatives partnered with stakeholders from federal and state agencies, universities and nonprofit organizations to develop the Blackfeet Agriculture Resource Management Plan (ARMP), which outlines a strategy for sustainable agriculture, food sovereignty and natural climate solutions. The tribe realized that achieving the objectives of the plan required innovative research and technology to enable widespread adoption. FFAR’s grant allows Piikani and Montana State University researchers to achieve three key objectives:Understanding the socio-economic cost of various management decisions to help Piikani farmers and ranchers make choices that reduce costs, protect the environment and increase local food access and affordability; Investigating various regional food systems to establish research priorities that sustainably nourish the Piikani people; and Identifying how traditional Indigenous foods and foodways influence Piikani health.“The funds that we have been granted from FFAR will help underwrite and support the Tribe’s efforts in implementing the community developed objectives for the Tribe’s ARMP,” said Loren BirdRattler, the Project Manager for the Blackfeet Tribe’s ARMP. “It will also position the Tribe to attain our own USDA Agriculture Research Station, which would be the first in Indian Country in the United States. FFAR’s generous support, along with the support of our partners, including Montana State University, provides ongoing opportunities for Blackfeet researchers to lead the way in implementing the research requirements that have been prioritized and defined under the ARMP.” This research has the potential to improve the Piikani people’s socioeconomic, health, agricultural, environmental and governance systems. The Piikani people will use this research to govern and manage their resources; form partnerships with outside organizations; and produce environmentally sustainable, nutritious food for themselves, and eventually for others. “This project fits well with Montana State University’s mission to transform lives and communities and is at the heart of the Land Grant mission; one of its goals is to increase mutually beneficial collaborations with Tribal partners,” said Dr. Walter Fleming, Department Head and Professor of Native American Studies at Montana State University. “The Department of Native American Studies, MSU, is proud to be a part of an innovative and systemic response to the evolution of tribal food sovereignty.” At its core, this research and the ARMP supports the Blackfeet Nation’s “triple bottom line,” which seeks to narrow health disparities, bolster sustainable economic development and support young farmers. This research directly aligns with FFAR’s core objectives to develop strategic public-private partnerships, fund innovative research and support the agriculture industry’s next generation. “FFAR is thrilled to be part of the Blackfeet Nation’s efforts to improve health, promote economic development and invest in future farmers and ranchers,” said FFAR’s Executive Director Sally Rockey. “This grant is especially significant not only because it highlights FFAR’s core objectives, but also because it marks FFAR’s 100th grant. FFAR was established in 2014, awarded the first grant in 2016 and is now celebrating our 100th grant in 2019. FFAR’s unique funding model and innovative research touches people around the globe.” FFAR’s Seeding Solutions grant program is an open call for bold ideas that address pressing food and agriculture issues in one of the Foundation’s Challenge Areas. This research supports FFAR’s Health-Agriculture Nexus Challenge Area, which aims to reduce food and nutritional insecurity and improve human health in the United States and around the globe. ### 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 CONTACT: Colleen Klemczewski, 202-204-2605, cklemczewski@foundationfar.org


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