TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Three important scientific studies ongoing in two research centers housed in the College of Engineering Sciences, Technology and Agriculture (CESTA) at Florida A&M University (FAMU) have been awarded grant funding totaling close to $800,000 from the United States Department of Agriculture Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service.
A proposal for a unique scientific project titled “The Development of a Raspberry Genetic Improvement Program,” has been funded for $299,782.99 through the FAMU Center for Viticulture Sciences and Small Fruit Research. Funding for the project comes from the USDA 1890 Capacity Building Grants Program. This research project, which originated based on needs expressed by local farmers in Florida, is designed to develop new raspberry cultivars that adapt to growing in the southern region of the country.
“FAMU can be recognized as the first land-grant institution in the state that has received funding for a raspberry breeding program conducted in Florida and the southern region of the United States,” said Bobby R. Phills, Ph.D., coordinator of the Small Fruit Program.
Phills will serve as co-director for the grant along with Mehboob B. Sheikh, Ph.D. and Violetka M. Colova, Ph.D. The success of the project will impact the expansion of opportunities for small and middle-sized farmers who grow raspberries as an alternative crop and thereby increase their ability to compete with farmers in other regions of the country. Phills adds, “The program will also provide training for minority undergraduate and graduate students seeking experience and training in plant breeding, horticulture and related disciples.
Two important research initiatives related to bio-security in the FAMU Center for Biological Control have been funded over the next three years. The first project titled “Developing a Prototype Digital Commodity-Based Identification Resource for Pests: A Model Using Cultivated Palms” will address agricultural bio-security needs to strengthen protection of the nation’s agriculture and food supply by providing scientifically based information to support identification/diagnosis of existing and potentially harmful invasive pests. The project has been awarded $299,996 to develop a prototype digital commodity-based identification resource for pests, a model using cultivated palms, and providing graduate training and experiential learning for undergraduates and to update curriculum in systematic entomology to include components of recent digital resources as well as modules for distance learning.
The investigating team for this project is Moses Kairo, Ph.D., Muhammad Haseeb, Ph.D. and Ralph Wills Flowers, Ph.D.
The second biological control project funded titled “Development of a Regulatory Plant Science Curriculum at Florida A&M University,” received $199,754 from CSREES. Objectives of the project are to support the development of a regulatory plant science curriculum and a pilot capacity-building phase in cooperation with the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Center for Plant Health Science and Technology and North Carolina State University; and to provide training for faculty and internships for students in the area of regulatory science. Currently, few institutions offer training in regulatory plant science and none of these institutions are focused on training minority students. This curriculum will lead to FAMU producing trained graduates who have a broad knowledge and proficiency in regulatory plant science to assist with the growing need to safeguard the nation against threats to bio-security. Research faculty in entomology related courses will serve on the investigating team, including Kairo and Lambert Kanga, Ph.D., FAMU and Stephanie Bloem, Ph.D.,USDA-APHIS.
“Research related to bio-security provides Florida A&M University opportunities to offer solutions that serve a range of stakeholders,” said Kairo, director, Center for Biological Control.
Kairo explained that the digital identification tools are being developed with a view to alleviate the continuing problems posed by the erosion of the nation’s taxonomic expertise through retirements. This loss without replacement is becoming a really serious problem.
Any mitigation measures as well as many risk management actions are dependent on correct identification of potential threats to the nation’s bio-security.
For more information about the projects or research centers, contact the following: Bobby R. Phills, Center for Viticulture and Small Fruit Research, at 850-599-8586 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org; Moses Kairo, director, Center for Biological Control, Office at 850-412-7062 or by email at email@example.com; Makola Abdullah, dean and director, Land-Grant Programs, FAMU’s College of Engineering Sciences, Technology and Agriculture, at 850-561-2644 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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