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NIFA Planned Research Initiatives


This project utilizes robotic submersible technology to characterize submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) blooms in the Charles River in Massachusetts.

Department of Project: Department of Geosciences

Global climate change is altering the Earth's natural cycling of water from the ground to the air and back again, what is known as the hydrologic cycle. In New England, climate change is predicted to increase temperatures and increase the frequency and strength of rain events. The increased temperatures will result in less snow accumulation in the winter and an increased need for irrigation in the hotter summer as evapo-transpiration increases. This will alter significantly the recharge/extraction cycle. Will

less water enter groundwater aquifers because of reduced snow fall? Will enough water recharge the aquifers to offset the amount extracted in the summer for irrigation? Certainly the timing of recharge will change. These changes will require a better understanding of recharge rates and a better characterization of groundwater aquifers; the volume of water present and its availability. Understanding the seasonal timing and rates of groundwater recharge is critical to maintaining a sustainable water supply. Importantly, how will these changes in the hydrolgical cycle effect sustainable agricultural practices?

This study will provide important information on long-term trends in water demand and supply, aid in the formulation of water policies for water resource development, and offer information to help protect surface and groundwater supplies. This project will also target areas with the best potential for surface augmentation of water supplies based on the relative benefits and costs of water supply augmentation (through spatially explicit policies for runoff mitigation and groundwater recharge). This project will evaluate water resources within a watershed ecosystem framework, and thereby will consider multiple supplies and uses of water resources. This study will address three areas of special interest to the region, namely:
• Water management in the context of forest loss and rapid development and conflict for water supply;
• Improvements in the assessment of water availability, incorporating technological, institutional, cultural and economic factors that influence water use and water availability and;
• Improved methods of characterizing and quantifying components of the water cycle in forested watersheds.

Department of Project: Stockbridge School of Agriculture

Improving water management is of increasing importance in horticultural operations. A growing global population and changes in water availability will mean that less water will be available for ornamental plant production. There are also a growing number of federal and state regulations regarding water use and runoff from production areas. Better irrigation and fertilization management practices will help to limit the environmental impact of container plant production by limiting the runoff of water and nutrients from nurseries. It will help growers to meet regulations regarding nutrient management and runoff. Reductions in runoff will help improve quality in local ecosystems.

Food Science

Department of Project: Department of Food Science

 Nanotechnology is defined by the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) as “…the understanding and control of matter at dimensions between approximately 1 and 100 nanometers, where unique phenomena enable applications. Here in this proposal, we aim to develop four nanotechnology enabled solutions to improve food quality, safety and nutrition.  A major trend in the modern food industry has been the development of functional foods designed to improve human health and wellbeing. Consumption of these foods may reduce the incidences of chronic diseases (such as cardiovascular disease, eye disease, diabetes, cancer, and hypertension) or improve human performance (such as alertness, activity levels, memory, and stamina).

Department of Project: Stockbridge School of Agriculture

This research focuses on two essential organ systems of house flies, in order to explore non-traditional control strategies for the insects. Control of flies is thought to have a potential strong impact on transmission of food pathogens.

Department of Project: Department of Food Science

There is a strong association of chronic inflammation with various types of diseases.

However, many of the current treatments for chronic inflammation are limited due to undesirable side effects associated with their long-term use and research has shown bioactive dietary components to be promising candidates for the prevention of inflammation and associated diseases. Thus, the goal of this project is to investigate the role of food bioactives in conjunction with microbiomes in prevention of inflammatory responses.

Department of Project: Department of Food Science

food safety is very much an agricultural issue.
This multi-researcher project will focus on four critical aspects of food safety: understanding the scope of food safety problems, characterizing the scientific basis of pathogenic organisms' survival, development of methodology for detection, and translating knowledge through food safety extension research and activates. Together these activities will contribute to the long term goal of reducing the overall risk of foodborne illness.

Department of Project: Department of Food Science

Dietary factors are important predictors of long term health and the incidence of chronic disease. Laboratory methods will be employed, primarily in vitro models, such as in vitro digestion and tissue cultures, which will be used to evaluate the bioactivity of nutrients and other food bioactives to understand the mechanisms. The investigator will seek to advance the science of defining the role of bioactive dietary constituents for optimal human health. This will provide fertile grounds for ongoing collaborations and future collaborative research and grant proposal development.