November 18, 2013

Grants Awarded to Grow Demand for Missouri Specialty Crops

USDA gives more than $300,000 for ag projects across the state.

The Missouri Department of Agriculture announced today that seven organizations across Missouri will receive grants given by the USDA's Specialty Crop Block Grant Program to strengthen the market for Missouri grown crops and produce. The more than $300,000 in federal funding will be used to educate consumers and producers about Missouri specialty crops as well as to research methods to improve nut, berry, grape, vegetable and flower production throughout the state.

The following organizations were awarded grant funding for 2014:

Kansas City Community Gardens - to improve gardening knowledge, increase access to healthy food, and increase fruit and vegetable production for Kansas City, Mo., area low-income urban gardeners by providing education, greenhouse production of high-yield food crops for transplant, cost-saving bulk seed, plant, and fruit tree purchases, technical assistance, and community garden space - $29,600

Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture - to provide learning opportunities that enable new farmers to learn about growing Mid-Missouri specialty crops in a hands-on, skill-based series of internships - $8,650

University of Missouri, Center for Agroforestry - to expand acreage of chestnut orchards in Missouri and reduce overall harvest costs by demonstrating a mechanical chestnut harvester to Missouri growers; conducting a "time-and-motion" study to quantify the labor saving benefits of a commercial harvester; creating, demonstrating, and releasing a Chestnut Financial Decision Support Tool; and providing advanced financial and market information to enable growers to profitably sell their chestnut crop - $40,491

Hammons Products Company - to reduce black walnut harvest costs for growers by re-engineering a modified pecan harvester and a specialized black walnut huller into one machine that will collect and hull the nuts in a streamlined, single-step process, and then convey the hulled nuts into an easily-handled transport container - $24,500

Missouri State University - to identify the best primocane bearing raspberry varieties for production in grow bags rotated in and out of a high tunnel with vegetable crops and increase the number of people affected by this new knowledge by disseminating project results - $9,500

Urban Buds, LLC - to enable small-scale Missouri cut flower growers to compete with imported flowers by determining the best varieties and crop mixes for efficient cut flower production within a high tunnel to extend the growing season by four months, while producing high quality cut flowers not commonly grown in Missouri such as Lupine, Ranunculus, Anemone, and Mathloia for the holiday markets. Information generated by the trials will be transferred to producers through field days and other outreach efforts - $21,281.41

University of Missouri, Grape and Wine Institute - to assist wine grape growers in making good harvest and management decisions to increase fruit quality by expanding basic analytical testing - $33,811

Missouri State University - to expand environmental and economic sustainability by improving fungal disease resistance in the Norton grape through the development of the first genetic linkage map for the Norton that will serve as a foundation for future breeding of new cultivars - $59,976

Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture - to reduce the environmental and financial implications of excessive fertilizer applications by assessing the benefits of using mycorrhizal fungi to take up soil nutrients more effectively in tomato and cucumber crops. Results will be shared with vegetable producers through farm tours and speaking engagements - $3,345

The Missouri Department of Agriculture also received grant funding to create a regional advertising campaign for Missouri's specialty crops. The promotional activities will educate Missouri consumers on the benefits of purchasing, preparing and consuming the specialty crops grown in Missouri.

For more information on the Missouri Department of Agriculture and financial assistance available to Missouri producers, visit the Department online at