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CEFS Receives Major Grants to Support Greenhouse Gas Research, an Organic Plant Breeding Center for the Southeast, and the Development of NC Local Food Supply Chains

From the February 2013 e-Newsletter

CEFS is proud to announce several major grants that will support exciting new work over the next few years.

Greenhouse Gas Research

USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has awarded CEFS $734,802 for an integrated research, education and extension project entitled Assessing The Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Potential Of Organic Systems In The Southeast. The long-term goal of the project is to understand the impact that organic systems in the Southeastern US can have on greenhouse gas emissions, and to educate stakeholders and students about how to maximize the mitigation potential of such systems.

Agriculture contributes 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. The central hypothesis of this project is that greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced by reduced tillage practices and incorporation of high organic matter inputs into the soil. CEFS will compare three certified organic systems and three parallel conventional systems at its research farm in Goldsboro, NC in order to quantify carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide emissions and to identify the potential mechanisms underlying carbon and nitrogen stabilization in soil. Outcomes of the project will provide essential data for developing organic practices that reduce soil nitrogen dioxide emissions while increasing carbon sequestration. CEFS will also develop new curricula on greenhouse gases and agriculture for student training and stakeholders.

Organic Plant Breeding Center

The USDA's Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) has awarded CEFS (along with project partner Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA) $1,262,855 for a project entitled Creating an Organic Plant Breeding Center for the Southeast. The project will focus on four plants (corn, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans) for which there is high organic market demand and production potential in the Southeast. The new center will breed corn hybrids that are resistant to GMO contamination, increase weed competitive ability in soybeans, find seedling disease resistance in peanuts, discover allelopathic wheat lines through newly-developed protocols, and increase the yield of all four crops under organic conditions.

The impetus for the project grew out of a series of farmer panel discussions hosted by NC State's Organic Cropping Systems Program, in which farmers voiced concern over increasing privatization of breeding efforts, decreasing availability of GMO-free varieties, and the lack of breeding under organic conditions.

Stakeholder involvement is critical to the project. Farmers, NGOs, crop consultants, and county extension will govern the center along with plant breeders to insure that it serves the organic community and institutionalizes a collaborative relationship among the groups. The new center will focus not only on how the plants are bred, but how they are distributed as well. According to Michael Sligh, RAFI-USA's Just Foods Program Director, "the need to get regionally-appropriate organic seeds into the hands of farmers is key and this center can help serve as a hub of this activity".



Local Food Supply Chains

Most recently, CEFS was awarded the first year's funding of a five-year, $3.9 million grant to build and evaluate supply chains for local farmers and fishers to supply large-scale markets in North Carolina. The grant was awarded by the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

CEFS will work with existing wholesale distributors and with farmers, fishers, processors and emerging food hubs to address the growing demand for local foods from institutional and retail buyers. The project seeks to create a statewide and national model of local food supply chains that serve large markets and incorporate values of the local foods movement -- sustainability, fair pricing for producers and others in the value chain, and inclusion of medium and small-sized farms.

Lowes Foods and Fort Bragg, as well as US Foods and Foster Caviness which supply food to Fort Bragg, are major project partners and represent the type of large-scale retail and institutional markets the supply chains will serve.

"We are excited to explore ways that local food supply chains can scale-up to significantly increase consumer access to seasonal and nutritious foods in the state," said Dr. Nancy Creamer, co-director of CEFS from NC State University. "Local food systems have the capacity to grow jobs; strengthen the economy; preserve farms, farmland, fishing communities and working waterfronts; and improve health outcomes, as consumer demand for fresh foods continues to increase."

Dr. John O'Sullivan, co-director of CEFS from NC A&T State University, added, "It will bring resources to help producers make important market connections, creating jobs and enhancing farm viability. It will also engage students at both NC A&T SU and NC State in facilitating market-based changes, giving them important lessons and real world connections and experiences."

The project involves research, outreach and academic components and includes a number of partners within North Carolina.


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