FFAR Investment in Downy Mildew Research Benefits Lettuce Producers and Consumers
- Next Generation Crops
University of California, Davis Receives Inaugural FFAR Award from the Crops of the Future Collaborative for Leafy Greens Research Project
WASHINGTON (Oct. 10, 2018)— The Foundation of Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) awarded Richard Michelmore, professor and director of the UC Davis Genome Center, the first research grant through the Crops of the Future Collaborative. This award builds on and extends genomics resources to improve the $3 billion dollar lettuce crop. It will allow researchers to exploit genomics approaches to combat downy mildew, which is the most important pathogen infecting lettuce. This highly variable pathogen causes losses during both production in the field and post-harvest. The project will enable rational deployment of new resistance genes resulting in more durable disease resistance and less use of control chemicals. FFAR’s grant will benefit both conventional and organic farmers by reducing crop losses and improving profitability. This research also will help reduce food waste and produce food for consumers with fewer chemical inputs.
“Downy mildew threatens production wherever the lettuce crop is grown, requiring expensive chemical control measures and resulting in loss of quality for consumers,” said Michelmore. “FFAR’s investment will increase our knowledge of plant resistance and pathogen variability leading to more efficient, knowledge-driven breeding of lettuce cultivars with more durable resistance to downy mildew.”
“The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research is pleased to support Dr. Michelmore’s research to reduce food waste and loss all along the value chain from producers to consumers,” said Dr. Sally Rockey, executive director of FFAR. “Further, this award is an example of how public-private partnerships effectively leverage funding for research that will provide benefit to farmers, producers, and consumers. This consortium approach provides smaller companies an exceptional opportunity to combine their R&D resources with larger multi-nationals to address shared pre-competitive issues important to the lettuce industry.”
Dr. Michelmore received a FFAR grant of $2.5 million over five years for this research. Matching funds from the Crops of the Future Leafy Greens Participants will double FFAR’s investment for an award totaling $5 million. These matching funds are provided by a multi-national consortium of fourteen large and small breeding and biotechnology companies in order to address significant problems in lettuce production. Crops of the Future Participants on the Leafy Greens Project are: BASF Vegetable Seeds, Bejo Zaden B.V., Benson Hill Biosystems, Inc., Enza Zaden Research and Development, B.V., Gautier Semences, Keygene, N.V., Progeny Advanced Genetics Inc., Ramiro Arnedo S.A., Rijk Zwaan Zaadteelt en Zaadhandel B.V., Sakata Seed Corporation, Syngenta Crop Protection AG, Takii and Company Ltd., Tanimura & Antle Value Added LLC. and Vilmorin S.A.
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.
About the Crops of the Future Collaborative
The Crops of the Future Collaborative is a public-private, multi-participant consortium convened by 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.