Forests and Related Resources – Topic Area 8.1
The Forests and Related Resources topic area aims to address the health, diversity and productivity of the Nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations through the development of environmentally sound approaches to increase productivity of forest lands, improve sustainability of forest resources, and develop value-added materials derived from woody resources. New technologies are needed to enhance the protection of the Nation’s forested lands and forest resources and help to ensure the continued existence of healthy and productive forest ecosystems. Proposals focused on sustainable bioenergy and development of value-added biofuels from woody biomass, and on the influence of climate change on forest health and productivity are strongly encouraged. Proposals that utilize nanotechnology in their approach to developing new wood-based products or that utilize wood-based nano-materials are also encouraged.
To meet the identified needs in forestry and wood utilization, the program’s long-term goals (10 years) are to achieve increased utilization of woody resources for value-added products from wood; healthy and sustainable forest ecosystems that are more resilient to wildfires and the impact of pathogens and insects; improved environmental and economic methods of sustainable harvesting; and improved growth and yield of forest species that will lead to more efficient use of forested lands.
Plant Production and Protection (Biology) – Topic Area 8.2
The objective of this topic area is to examine novel ways of enhancing crop production and protection by applying biological approaches to develop new methods for plant improvement, apply traditional plant breeding methods and new technologies to develop new food and non-food crop plants, develop plant characteristics that reduce the harmful impact of plant pests and biotic stresses, as well as new genotypes of existing crop plants with characteristics that allow for their use in new commercial applications.
Animal Production and Protection – Topic Area 8.3
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations predicts that feeding the world’s growing population will require a doubling of global food production by 2050. Fulfilling this need will require new technologies to improve both productivity and efficiency of food animals. The Animal Production and Protection topic area aims to develop innovative, marketable technologies that will provide significant benefit to the production and protection of agricultural animals. New technologies for rapid detection, point-of-care, treatment and prevention of disease are needed to improve productivity and enhance the biosecurity of our herds and flocks. Better technologies are also needed to develop and enhance alternatives to the use of antibiotics since pathogen resistance and human sensitivity to residue food products derived from animals have become of increasing concern. To meet increasing consumer demand for value-added animal products, innovative technologies are needed to address the challenges presented by non-conventional management systems and strategies. And there is an urgent need for technologies that decrease the impact of animal agriculture on the environment and optimize use of our natural resources. Technological advances in animal production and protection will not only enhance the safety of the Nation’s food supply and contribute to environmental stewardship, they will also allow American producers to remain competitive in the global marketplace and contribute to global food security.
Conservation of Natural Resources – Topic Area 8.4
The objective of this topic area is the conservation of soil, water, air and other natural resources on landscapes that produce agricultural, natural and forest/rangeland goods and services. The goal of the program is to commercialize innovative technologies that are developed with the purpose to conserve, monitor, improve and/or protect the quality and/or quantity of natural resources while sustaining optimal farm and forest productivity and profitability. We encourage new technologies and innovations that will help improve soil health, reduce soil erosion, improve water and air quality, improve nutrient management and conserve and use water more effectively.
Food Science and Nutrition – Topic Area 8.5
The Food Science and Nutrition topic area aims to fund projects that support research focusing on developing new and improved processes, technologies, or services that address emerging food safety, food processing and nutrition issues. The program will fund projects to: 1) increase the understanding of the physical, chemical, and biological properties of food; 2)
improve methods for the processing and packaging of food products to improve the quality, safety and nutritional value of foods, and to reduce food waste; 3) develop technologies for rapid and sensitive detection of pathogens and toxins in foods, and 4) develop programs or products that increase the consumption of healthy foods and reduce obesity, or alleviate urban and rural food deserts. The outcome of a successful project is a proof of concept for a marketable product or patented process.
The long-term goals (10 years) of the program are to commercialize the production of useful new food products, processes, materials, and systems that reduce foodborne illness, obesity, enhance the nutritional quality and value of foods and/or bridge socioeconomic gaps in access to healthy foods.
Rural and Community Development – Topic Area 8.6
The objective of this topic area is to improve the quality of life in rural America by creating and commercializing technologies that address important economic and social development issues or challenges in rural America. Projects must explicitly discuss the specific rural problem or opportunity that will be examined and how the proposed science-based technology will successfully address the problem or opportunity. Applications must also include an objective to assess the impacts of the proposed project on the environment or the socio-economic
development of rural areas. The applications need not be centered on agriculture but may be focused on any area that has the potential to provide significant benefit to rural Americans. USDA seeks a balanced portfolio that appropriately mixes high risk, high reward innovations with new applications of existing technologies.
Aquaculture – Topic Area 8.7
The Aquaculture topic area funds research projects with the overall goal of leading to improved production efficiency and increased competitiveness of private sector, commercial aquaculture in the United States. This topic area aims to develop new technologies that will enhance the knowledge and technology base necessary for the expansion of the domestic aquaculture industry. Seafood production from the wild is under increased pressure due to overfishing, and therefore aquaculture is increasingly an important source of farmed seafood and an important contributor to food security. Studies on commercially important species of fish, shellfish and aquatic plants from both freshwater and marine environments are included. In this context, new technologies are needed to improve production efficiency, protect aquaculture species against disease, and ensure the quality of farmed seafood.
Biofuels and Biobased Products – Topic Area 8.8
The objective of this topic area is to promote the use of non-food biobased products and biofuels by developing new or improved technologies that will lead to increased competitiveness of value-added products from agricultural materials. This research will lead to new opportunities to diversify agriculture and enhance agriculture’s role as a reliable supplier of raw materials to industry. Historically, appropriate research areas have included: development of improved technology for converting agriculturally derived raw materials into useful industrial products; development of new products from new industrial crops; and improving the effectiveness or cost-competitiveness of industrial products derived from agricultural materials in comparison to non-agriculturally derived products. In order to enhance the impact of the program, acceptance of applications will be limited to select Research Priority Areas.
Small and Mid-Size Farms – Topic Area 8.12
The Small and Mid-Size Farms topic area aims to promote and improve the sustainability and profitability of small and mid-size farms and ranches (where annual sales of agricultural products are less than $250,000 for small farms and $500,000 for mid-size farms - hereafter referred to as small farms). The vast majority of farms in this country are small and they play an important role in the agricultural sector. The viability and sustainability of small farms is important to the Nation’s economy and to the stewardship of our biological and natural resources. While some small farms are located in urban areas, most small farms are located in rural areas, and these farms are critical to sustaining and strengthening the leadership and social fabric of rural communities. Applicants are strongly encouraged to emphasize how their project would contribute to the well-being of rural communities and institutions. In particular, applicants should emphasize how the results of their project would be disseminated to other small farmers and provide benefit to the small farm community.
Plant Production and Protection (Engineering) – Topic Area 8.13
The objective of this topic area is to enhance crop production in both conventional and organic systems by creating and commercializing engineering technologies that enhance system efficiency and profitability and that protect crops from pests and pathogens in economically and environmentally sound ways. Engineering projects must describe the system need; design specifications, and functionality and reliability; and cost benefit analysis. Where feasible, projects should describe the testing metrics, experimental design, and materials and methods to collect and analyze data on the metrics. Projects must address solutions that are scalable to address problems in commercial agriculture. Applications to the 8.13 topic area should focus on engineering solutions that directly improve crop production and protection. Applications proposing topics outside of crop production and protection should contact the NPL to ensure that that project is a fit in the program area. Applications for the Phase I program must address early stage, proof of concept research as is specified in this RFA. Adaptation of existing technologies to new crops, regions, pest, etc. must require significant innovation as to fit the proof of concept nature of the Phase I program.