USDA announces $5.2m for nanotech research

Eleven universities receive grants to research food safety, plant and animal health and other uses for nanotech solutions.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced March 30 that the U.S. Department of Agriculture will make an investment of more than $5.2 million to support nanotechnology research at 11 universities. The universities will research ways nanotechnology can be used to improve food safety, enhance renewable fuels, increase crop yields, manage agricultural pests and more.

The awards were made through USDA's Agriculture & Food Research Initiative (AFRI), the nation's competitive, peer-reviewed grants program for fundamental and applied agricultural sciences.

“Nano-scale science, engineering and technology are key pieces of our investment in innovation to ensure an adequate and safe food supply for a growing global population,” Vilsack said. “The President’s 2017 budget calls for full funding of (AFRI) so that USDA can continue to support important projects like these.”

Universities receiving funding include Auburn University, Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, University of Central Florida, University of Georgia-Athens, Iowa State University, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Mississippi State University-Starkville, Lincoln University, Clemson University, Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University and University of Wisconsin-Madison.

With this funding, Auburn proposes to improve pathogen monitoring throughout the food supply chain by creating a user-friendly system that can detect multiple foodborne pathogens simultaneously, accurately and rapidly. Mississippi State will research ways nanochitosan can be used as a combined fire retardant and antifungal wood treatment. Experts in nanotechnology, molecular biology, vaccines and poultry diseases at the University of Wisconsin will work to develop nanoparticle-based poultry vaccines to prevent emerging poultry infections.

USDA posts a full list of projects and longer descriptions online.

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