New USDA grants will fund dozens of research projects across Cornell, from improving the feasibility of sweet potato cultivation in New York to understanding the environmental justice implications of new federal flood risk ratings.
The 51 Cornell projects that received funding totaling $3.8 million are administered through the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station (Cornell AES).
One of this year’s projects focuses on the social, economic and environmental causes and consequences of demographic change in rural America. Between 2010-19, 43% of rural counties across the US lost population. Residents in rural counties are older than those in metro or suburban areas, have fewer community and transportation services, and have less access to health care — all problems that have been exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic. , according to Mildred Warner, MS ’85, Ph.D. ’97, who is leading the project and is a professor in the Department of City and Regional Planning and the Department of Global Development. Warner advocates an “all ages” approach to rural planning, which she described in a conference briefing earlier this year.
“Looking at differences across rural and urban areas, so many of our age-friendly and youth-friendly recommendations are actually urban-biased,” Warner said. “We need to link planning, design and services in rural areas to build communities that enable greater independence for both young and very old people.”
Cornell AES supports researchers in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), the College of Human Ecology and the College of Veterinary Medicine, managing the application and distribution of Federal Resource Funds from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. These annual federal grants support state-based research activities at land-grant universities to protect the nation’s food supply, economy and natural resources. Individual grants – a maximum of $30,000 per year for three years – provide seed funding for new ideas or bridge funding for ongoing research.
“These funds provide critical support for research projects tailored to the needs of New Yorkers,” said Margaret Smith, director of Cornell AES and associate dean of CALS. “Each year, we have the opportunity to support new projects designed to address ongoing and emerging research needs in the state.”
Some of the other projects funded this year will examine:
- Fighting pests and protecting pollinators: For the past 30 years, farmers have relied on a class of insecticides called neonicotinoids to combat pests such as corn earworms, which attack corn and soybeans. A growing body of research suggests that neonicotinoids have contributed to the decline of bees and other pollinators. Katja Poveda, an associate professor of entomology, is developing alternative methods to control and monitor seed corn pests by understanding the chemicals that attract them.
- Flood risk rating and environmental justice: Flooding is the most common and costliest type of natural disaster in New York state, and due to climate change, the risk of flooding is increasing. Sharon Tennyson, a professor in the Cornell Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy, will examine how recent changes to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s flood risk rating have affected federal flood insurance pricing, affordability and uptake in New York, especially among minorities and the disadvantaged. populations in communities at risk of flooding.
- Spotted lantern fly control: The invasive spotted fly attacks a range of plants, including grapes and economically important stone fruits. First seen in Pennsylvania in 2014, Cornell researchers and New York state agencies worked to prevent the pest from infesting New York farms and vineyards. Ann Hajek, professor of entomology, is studying two fungal pathogens that harm spotted lanternflies; Laboratory and field studies will test whether these natural pathogens can be recruited to control the pests.
- Cultivation of sweet potatoes: Gaurav Moghe, assistant professor in the School of Integrative Plant Science, Division of Plant Biology, is exploring strategies to improve the viability of sweet potato cultivation in New York. Moghe will test whether a group of beneficial fungi called arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMFs) can help. The association of plants with AMFs dates back to 400 million years ago and is one of the most enduring adaptations in land plants The fungi work symbiotically with many plants, creating an expanded root system that enables plants to take in more nutrients pull from soils, tackle. non-ideal soil conditions such as high acidity or heavy metal contamination, and tolerance of extreme temperatures, both hot and cold.
Krisy Gashler is a writer for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.