RALEIGH, N.C. — Ten specialty crop projects, including seven through N.C. State University, will receive more than $1.35 million in grants through the Specialty Block Grant Program administered by the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and funded by USDA.
“USDA’s Specialty Crop Block Grant program enables continued research and outreach, which is critical to the long-term success of North Carolina’s specialty crop producers,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “Projects will focus on research involving Fraser Fir Christmas trees, blueberries, hops, ginger, tomatoes, potatoes and hemlock trees. Plus, funding is included to promote specialty crop production in Johnston County.”
North Carolina’s specialty crops include fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, turfgrass and sod, Christmas trees and nursery and greenhouse crops. Grant proposals were submitted by nonprofit organizations, commodity groups, government agencies and universities.
Following are 2022 Specialty Crops grant recipients and projects:
- Johnston County Tourism Authority received $149,315 for its JoCo Grows Specialty Crops program aimed at educating residents, visitors and consumers on the value and benefits of specialty crops grown in Johnston County.
- North Carolina A&T State University received $148,542 to promote ginger and its production by identifying the best cultivars.
- N.C. Christmas Tree Association received $102,704.50 for Expanding NC Fraser Fir Brand Awareness by expanding its social media distribution across current platforms, using shared value strategies to extend brand awareness to consumers and to provide a counterpoint to extensive misinformation from artificial tree manufacturers.
- N.C. State University received $74,932 to conduct a field trial of selected hop plants for evaluating yield, brewing test beers, and releasing the selections to NC hop growers.
- N.C. State University received $150,000 to improve sustainable hemlock pest management and conservation by developing integrated pest management practices for hemlock production in nurseries to include least toxic insecticides and resistant hemlock genotypes.
- N.C. State University received $117,350 to advance the development of a portable handheld meter to predict apple crop load during the chemical thinning window.
- N.C. State University received $172,299.50 to investigate the practice of soil alkalinization to manage bacterial wilt on tomato, to understand the impact of soil alkalinization on the persistence and viability of RSSC in soil, and to identify recommendations for nutrient management under an alkaline soil.
- N.C. State University received $101,593 to use smartphone-based LAMP technology to deliver a cost-effective molecular diagnostic assay to the field to identify Phytophthora species that infect potatoes and tomatoes in North Carolina more rapidly.
- N.C. State University received $145,000 for new machine harvest trials that will inform the release of new blueberry cultivars and to explore new technologies such as machine learning and in vitro micropropagation that will allow NCSU to grow and test larger numbers of selections in berry evaluations.
- N.C. State University received $176,219.16 to improve resilience of Fraser fir Christmas trees to a major regulatory pest, the Elongate Hemlock Scale (EHS) through an integration of genomic tools with traditional tree breeding approaches. The project aims to identify and develop Fraser fir Christmas tree genotypes with enhanced genetic resilience to EHS.
For more information on the program, go to www.ncagr.gov/research/scgrant/.
–Jenni Keith, NCDA&CS