New Organic Herbicide, FSMA Comments, and Funding for Peach/Strawberry Breeding Efforts

Hello Everyone!  It’s been a while since I posted here, but here are a few things of interest to the peach community:

Suppress Herbicide EC for Organic Weed Control

Westbridge Agricultural Products recently gained EPA registration of Suppress Herbicide EC, a new tool for organic growers in the battle against weeds.

Suppress Herbicide EC is registered as a broad spectrum contact herbicide for post-emergent, non-selective weed control for use in all agricultural food and non-food crops.

The formulation is an emulsifiable concentrate approved by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) for use in organic food production.

In four years of university research trials, the herbicide consistently revealed positive results in controlling various weeds.

Weed control is always a difficult challenge for organic growers and there are few effective and economical options available for use on organic food crops.

The introduction of this new product is exciting news and what organic growers have been waiting for, says Westbridge President Tina Koenemann.

The herbicide provides growers with a valuable tool to help meet their production goals. It could also prove to be a valuable option for conventional growers as a rotational herbicide where resistant weeds have become a problem.

Westbridge Agricultural Products is a manufacturer and distributor of liquid organic fertilizers, bio pesticides, and specialty inputs.

For more information:

Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA) Comment Period

From USDA:
On September 29, 2014, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published in the Federal Register for public comment four supplemental proposed rules addressing specific provisions from the various original proposals, based on comments reviewed so far.

The four Supplemental Notices of Proposed Rulemaking are:

  1. Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for the Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption. Docket number FDA-2011-N-0921 (LINK TO FED REGISTER This is the produce/farm rule and also impacts produce packinghouses located on farms.
  1. Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for the Current Good Manufacturing Practice and Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food. Docket number FDA-2011-N-0920 (LINK TO FED REGISTER This is the manufacturing/processing rule and also impacts produce packinghouses not located on farms.
  1. Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for the Current Good Manufacturing Practice and Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Food for Animals. Docket number FDA-2011-N-0922 (LINK TO FED REGISTER This is the manufacturing/processing rule for animal food.
  1. Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for the Foreign Supplier Verification Program for Importers of Food for Humans and Animals. Docket number FDA-2011-N-0143 (LINK TO FED REGISTER This is the importer rule.

These supplemental proposed rules are key components of the preventive approach to food safety established by FSMA. They only include the major areas where FDA is re-proposing new language from the original proposal, so areas that are not being re-proposed are not being published again. FDA continues to review all comments received on the original proposals and will take them into account as they move forward in the rulemaking process, including new comments submitted on these four supplemental proposed rules.

The produce industry, other stakeholders, and the general public are being asked to participate in the rulemaking process by reviewing the supplemental proposed rules and submitting comments to FDA or at the portal ( by the due date of December 15, 2014. We suggest that you provide substantive, specific comments with as much detail as you can provide on what works for you and what doesn’t work (and why) on these specific areas. Your input will help guide our colleagues at FDA as they draft final rules on produce safety, preventive controls for human and animal food, and imports of human and animal food. The regulations for these four rules will become effective only after the final rules are published in the Federal Register along with established compliance dates.

Should you have questions about FDA’s supplemental proposed rules or any other FDA-related issue, please contact our FDA colleagues at or Food and Drug Administration, 5100 Paint Branch Parkway, Wiley Building, HFS-009, College Park, MD 20740, Attn: FSMA Outreach.

USDA Specialty Crop Grants Awarded to UF Faculty

Two new projects have been funded through the USDA Specialty Crops Research Initiative involving UF Faculty.

rosbreed2_logofbThe first project, RosBREED: Combining Disease Resistance with Horticultural Quality in New Rosaceous Cultivars will help both the strawberry and peach industries in Florida.  Dr. Mercy Olmstead, Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist in the Horticultural Sciences Department, is the Extension Lead for this national project and Dr. Vance Whitaker, is an Assistant Professor and Strawberry Breeder in the Horticultural Sciences Department a demonstration breeder, who will use new genetic tools to make the breeding process more efficient and be able to deliver a product to the marketplace with superior fruit quality and disease resistance.  Rosaceous crops in the Rosaceae family include apple, cherry, peach, pear, blackberry, and rootstocks for these crops.

From the press release:

A national team of scientists working on genomics, genetics, and breeding of rosaceous crops has been awarded funds for the first year of a $10 million, five year USDA – NIFA – SCRI competitive grant. The team will develop and apply modern DNA-based tools to deliver new cultivars – cultivated varieties – with superior product quality and disease resistance.

This award from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Research Initiative will be managed by Project Director Amy Iezzoni of Michigan State University. She and project co-Director Cameron Peace, Washington State University, will lead a group of 35 scientists from 14 U.S. institutions along with numerous international cooperators. Entitled “RosBREED: Combining Disease Resistance with Horticultural Quality in New Rosaceous Cultivars”, the project will adapt and demonstrate new DNA-based tools in 22 U.S. breeding programs, focusing on eight crops: apple, blackberry, peach, pear, rose, strawberry, sweet cherry, and tart cherry.

RosBREED brings unprecedented attention to local and regional breeding programs and a commitment to more efficiently, accurately, and creatively develop commercial scion and rootstock cultivars. The team will build on the foundation established in the preceding RosBREED project, now adding key new scientists and targeting diseases industry stakeholders across the country have identified as key challenges. Using modern DNA tools, U.S. breeders will now be able to more rapidly develop cultivars with disease resistance combined with superior horticultural quality. Producers will have more options to sustainably protect their crops, while consumers and the entire supply chain will directly benefit from products with better taste, nutrition, keeping ability, and appearance.

For more information:

The second project being funded to UF scientists is: Genome Database for Rosaceae: Empowering Specialty Crop Research through Big Data-Driven Discovery and Application in Breeding is a $2.7 million, five-year project that will help the research community and breeders to connect and find genetic information about Rosaceae crops.  This project will collect all of the genetic knowledge needed to help researchers and breeder make their jobs more efficient so that new fruit varieties will be released with superior fruit quality in a shorter time period that will ultimately benefit the consumer. Dr. Dorrie Main, the lead PI is based at Washington State University in Pullman, WA and will lead a team of 10 scientists in this effort.

Dr. Mercy Olmstead is leading the extension effort on this project as well but will conduct research with Dr. Katie Stofer in the Department of Agricultural Education and Communications on how scientists can improve their communication skills to tell their stakeholders the importance of their research results.

For more information on this database for tree fruit (and what it can do for you!):



President Obama Signs the Farm Bill at Michigan State University
Courtesy of MSU.

I was so excited to see that President Obama went to my Alma Mater – Michigan State University – to sign the Farm Bill.  He signed it in the Mary Anne McPhail Equine Performance Center, which I remember well because I lost my parking spot for my building across the street -the Plant and Soil Science Building!  All my friends and colleagues were posting pictures on facebook as the hour approached and it was fantastic to know that we now have funding for things like the State Block Grant Program, Specialty Crops Research Initiative, a new fruit and vegetable incentive grant program for SNAP recipients, and the pest and disease prevention programs.

I will be certainly taking advantage of these grant programs as we head into the next year and hope to have significant funding for stone fruit extension efforts in breeding nationwide for Rosaceae crops and also here at home for fruit quality and peach flavor research.

Important Items for Horticulture Research –

–Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) will receive $275M over five years with budget protection beyond FY2018. (2008 Farm Bill provided for $230M over 5 years)

–For SCRI, the new farm bill provides an additional $125M authorization for five years solely for an “Emergency Citrus Disease Research & Extension Program”.  This additional funding will NOT be taken out of the original $275M allocated for other specialty crop research projects.

Agriculture & Food Research Initiative (AFRI) gets $316M for FY2014, a big $52M increase from two years ago.

The Organic Agriculture Research & Education Initiative (OREI) retains its funding level at $100M over five years…..$20M each year.

The Beginning Farmers / Ranchers Development Program also has $100M total over five years — $20M/yr. for FYs 14-18.

The National Clean Plant Network programIt retains an annual base funding level of $5M/yr., allowing for additional annual funds if permitted by the USDA Secretary.  Clean Plant Network’s budget is now merged with Plant Pest & Disease Management.


Formula / Extension Research:  Those crucial land-grant funding programs get a boost for FY14:

  • Hatch gets $244M….an $8M increase from 2012
  • Smith-Lever Extension gets $300M….a $6M increase from 2012
  • Evans-Allen (1890) schools get $52.4M…a $1.5M increase from 2012
  • Extension for 1890 schools get $44M…a $1.3M increase

The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SARE) gets almost $23M for FY14, an $8.2M increase with a combined research and extension budget.

The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research:

A NIFA program providing tax incentives for private sector contributions to competitive research grants funded by USDA. Program funding total is $200M, which will cover the entire period of this new farm bill — FY14-18.

SCRI Dual Panel Review Arrangement / Matching Waivers:

The new farm bill ushers in a dual panel grant review process for SCRI.  This allows greater collaborative review procedures among research scientists, specialty crop industries, and other stakeholders.

In the 2014 Farm Bill: Sect. 7128 – Non-Federal Matching:

The Conference substitute adopts the House provision with an amendment. The amendment requires at least a 100 percent match from the recipient of competitive grants under certain covered laws but exempts grants awarded to a research agency of the USDA and entities, including their partners, that are eligible to receive capacity funds. The amendment authorizes the Secretary to waive the match requirement if the grant involves research or extension activities that the NAREEE Advisory Board has determined is a national priority specific to a statutory purpose of the program under which the grant is awarded. The match policy will apply to new grants awarded after October 1, 2014. (Section 7128).

What kind of research do you hope to see funded for your crops that you grow?

What Does the Extension Service Do For YOU?

I received this forward from a colleague this morning –  It’s an article about how agriculture extension, the National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA), and the Farm Bill all affect our lives on a daily basis even though we may not realize it.  (By the way, it’s from a great magazine called Wired – and it’s my husband’s subscription.  Which explains why I never saw this issue…magazines disappear in my house.)

Kudos to the author, Gwen Pearson for writing this article because although I am preaching to the choir for this blog’s audience, the majority of Americans don’t understand the extension service and all that we do.  My daily routine does have a lot of computer time, and not as much field work or face time with growers as I would like.  However, as extension specialists, our goals are to conduct research that addresses production challenges in the region/state and crop that we work with.  But, without stable funding, most of our time is spent writing grants to fund our applied research and support the people that help us do that work.  Deep down, all of us in extension really want to help people. (I would love to be a nurse, but I can’t stand blood or hurting people).

In this time of extra reporting for government jobs, it’s often difficult to write discrete statements about what extension accomplishes on a day by day basis.  We in extension, are often modest individuals that don’t trumpet our successes, yet – we are bearers of economic successes.  It’s the extra information that we deliver that helps a grower make decisions that result in profitability.  Yet, we in extension are not the first ones they call when they make that extra $1,000 per acre or 25% increase in yearly profits because of the information they received from the extension service.  Yet these success stories are exceedingly important to our progress reports for our Universities and States/National government that fund Extension through Smith/Lever funds and Hatch research funds to prove we making an impact.

We are also the bearers of life-changing information – in our 4-H agents and health and nutrition programs.  Do you have a child that has sold an animal as part of the 4-H program?  Those funds that kids get are often used for college and other educational endeavors that maybe their families can’t fund themselves.  One lamb even sold for over $80,000!  University of Florida, and IFAS Extension in particular offer Solutions for Your Life like keeping your New Year’s resolution, or caring for an aging parent or spouse, or even transitioning farms to family members to keep agriculture alive in each generation.

Finally, we help citizens prepare for disaster and recovery.  One great example of this is the work that UF Extension did with members of the community of Live Oak to recover after the flooding damage caused by Tropical Storm Debby in 2012.  This storm sticks out in my mind because was the first big party with a bouncy house for my daughter’s fifth birthday, yet it was cancelled because of TS Debby.  Although it dumped massive amounts of rain, many people evacuated and were safe.  However, the storm caused significant damage and Suwannee County Extension worked with citizens to develop a recovery plan.

So, I guess the question is for everyone in our communities – what does the Extension Service do for YOU?

The Importance of Extension

June, 2010

With the national budget a constant debate in the U.S. House and Senate, I can’t help but be troubled about the loss of some of our research funds. I think that this is a perfect time to tell the taxpayers about what the Extension Service does for them. A great article was published recently on the importance of Extension: – and it’s a great summarization of how we as specialists and agents help our community members to be more productive.

My favorite points in this article are that Extension Service personnel are synergists and collaborators. We are tasked with cultivating partnerships and forging new partnerships by networking and bringing industry members together to be more successful. I have been part of several workshops where we have gathered input from industry members and have turned it into important research proposals and projects. This is by far the most rewarding part of being an applied research scientist; we work to help growers stay in agriculture.

Collaboration is essential for the success of any industry, and the burgeoning peach industry in Florida is a key beneficiary of collaboration among government agencies, universities, private companies, and growers. Extension personnel are often at the table when key agricultural issues are being discussed, especially as we in the State of Florida talk about implementing Best Management Practices for our specialty crops. Growers are a key collaborating partner for University Extension. In fact, I love collaborating with growers to showcase on-farm demonstrations of new production techniques – because if any one method to encourage adoption of new techniques is better than others, it is by seeing another growers’ success using the new techniques.

I am sure that our elected officials will work through this great economic challenge for our country; I am hopeful that our communities will notice little difference in how state extension agencies operate. I hope that I can continue to serve my state and university in all aspects of applied research for the future, because simply, I love extension.



Mercy Olmstead, Ph.D.