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USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture Announces $21.1 Million to Grow the Bioeconomy

WASHINGTON, D.C.  – The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has announced six grants totaling nearly $21.1 million to support the development of new jet fuel, biobased products and biomaterials from renewable sources. Funding is made through NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.

“Our nation has made great strides in promoting the bioeconomy,” said NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy. “Today’s investments will help speed the development of regional systems for sustainable bioenergy, bioproducts, and biomaterials production, and create a strong workforce needed to support the bioeconomy.”
The Agriculture and Food Research Initiative is America’s flagship competitive grants program for foundational and translational research, education, and extension projects in the food and agricultural sciences. These grants are awarded through the Sustainable Bioenergy and Bioproducts Challenge Area, which supports integrated public/private partnerships that lead to industrial production of biobased materials, products and fuels to create jobs, stimulate rural economic vitality, improve existing agricultural systems and contribute to our nation’s energy security.
Grants being announced today, by state, include:

  • University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, $7,026,000
  • University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, $7,026,000
  • University of Missouri, Rolla, Missouri, $32,000
  • North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, $2,750,000
  • The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, $2,750,000
  • Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma, $1,500,000

Project details can be found at the NIFA website.
Among the grants, the University of Florida project will identify and deploy regionally adapted carinata (an oilseed member of the mustard family) as the basis of a biofuel and bioproduct supply chain that will produce biobased jet fuel for civil and military aviation, industrial chemicals, and animal feed. The work will result in sustainable commercialization of carinata in the Southeast as well as training a workforce to support it. The University of Arizona project supports the further development of a domestic source for natural rubber from a desert shrub guayule (pronounced why-oo-lee) which can be grown on marginal lands and in addition to rubber latex can produce sugars that may be made into biobased jet fuel, and a resin that can be made into valuable industrial chemicals. Bridgestone USA a major tire manufacturer is a key partner on the project. A North Carolina State University project will use online courses to prepare students and teachers from underrepresented and rural areas to meet the workforce demands and advance the future of bioenergy and bioproducts in America's bioeconomy.
The University of Florida and University of Arizona projects are consortia-based Coordinated Agricultural Projects, and each is anticipated to receive up to $15 million over the duration of their five-year projects.
Since 2010, NIFA, has awarded more than $164 million through the Sustainable Bioenergy and Bioproducts Challenge Area. Previously funded projects include a University of Wisconsin project that developed a model to support both teacher and student education on sustainability and bioenergy concepts(link is external). As a result, this project developed several science books, lesson plans, videos, and other educational tools for students of all ages in Wisconsin. A Washington State University-led project created the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance(link is external) to address and develop aviation fuel and other bioproducts using sustainable woody resources in the Pacific Northwest. Last year, the Alliance successfully produced jet fuel from cellulose sugars from salvaged wood waste and powered the first ever commercial flight using a cellulose-based jet fuel.
NIFA’s mission is to invest in and advance agricultural research, education, and extension to solve societal challenges. NIFA’s investments in transformative science directly support the long-term prosperity and global preeminence of U.S. agriculture. To learn more about NIFA’s impact on agricultural sciences, visit www.nifa.usda.gov/Impactssign up for updates(link is external), and follow us on Twitter @USDA_NIFA(link is external)#NIFAImpacts(link is external).