$1 million grant to benefit "Emerging Crops" in NC

RALEIGH, NC - The N.C. Bioenergy Research Initiative and the New and Emerging Crops Program recently awarded $1 million in grants for 14 projects aimed at boosting bioenergy opportunities and crop production in the state.

The Bioenergy Research Initiative began in 2013, with the allocation of funds by the North Carolina General Assembly. The initiative’s grants of $500,000 support the development of energy production from North Carolina agricultural and forest-based products.

The New and Emerging Crops Program began after the General Assembly approved it in 2018. Through $500,000 in grants, the program advances its mission of identifying potential new crops, value-added products and agricultural enterprises and providing the agricultural research, marketing support, and education necessary to make these crops commercially viable and profitable for North Carolina’s growers and agribusinesses.

“These grants continue to help researchers test possibilities for our state,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “The grants allow researchers to plan and implement research at our research stations – whether it’s exploring brand new opportunities or continuing some existing projects for another year. The projects could mean profitable new endeavors for our state’s agriculture industry.”

Below is a list of grant amounts, recipients, titles and descriptions for each of the projects awarded through the 2021 Bioenergy Research Initiative:

  • $98,466 to N.C. State University’s Department of Horticultural Science for a three-year project titled Advanced Propagation / Establishment Systems for Bioenergy Grasses. This project builds on previously funded projects which were highly successful in developing intergeneric hybrids of energy canes. New technologies are being developed for improved propagation and planting efficiencies. The main objective is to develop and optimize tissue culture micropropagation systems, lower planting and production costs and improve yields.

  • $100,000 to NCSU’s Department of Biological & Agricultural Engineering for a two-year project titled Butanol & Nanocellulose from CRISPR-Edited Poplar. Bio-butanol is a promising biofuel due to its high energy density and potential for drop-in biofuel applications. This research proposes an innovative bioprocess that will produce high-value cellulose nanocrystals and butanol fuel from sustainable biomass feedstocks.

  • $97,157 to NCSU’s Department of Biological & Agricultural Engineering for a 1 1/2-year project titled Miscanthus Biochar Potential as a Poultry Litter Amendment. Gaseous emissions in poultry houses is a challenge that reduces bird welfare and productivity. This project aims to support synergy between N.C. poultry and bioenergy sectors through evaluating the use of Miscanthus-derived biochar as an emission mitigation additive in poultry house litter.

  • $100,000 to NCSU’s Department of Biological & Agricultural Engineering for a two-year project titled Optimization of Lemnaceae-Based Biogas Production. Lemnaceae, commonly known as duckweed, is one of the fastest growing plants on the planet and is extremely efficient at absorbing nutrients from the water it grows in. This study will examine the potential of growing three different species in swine lagoon water followed by subsequent thermophilic anaerobic digestion for biogas production.

  • $99,000 to NCSU’s Department of Biological & Agricultural Engineering to fund Uniform-Format Herbaceous Biomass Feedstock: Value-Added Miscanthus for two years. This proposal focuses on Miscanthus production to provide feedstock for bioenergy related technologies. The research will address feedstock variability with the goal of developing a high-density, uniform-format herbaceous biomass feedstock.

  • $5,377 to NCSU’s Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources to extend a postdoctoral project titled Loblolly Pine Biomass and Economic Analysis for one year. This project evaluates the biomass production of loblolly pine due to variations of silviculture, genetics and stand density to help landowners optimize production in their biomass plantations.

Below is a list of grant amounts, recipients, titles and descriptions for each of the projects awarded through the 2021 New and Emerging Crops Program:

  • $80,100 to NCSU’s Department of Horticultural Science to fund Genetic Enhancement of CBD Hemp. The main objectives of this three-year project are to develop 1) improved seedless triploid clones for asexual propagation and 2) a gene editing strategy for bioengineering CBD hemp with reduced THC content. It is expected that development of triploid cultivars and hybrid strains will have immediate utility for CBD hemp production.

  • $60,000 to NCSU's Department of Crop and Soil Sciences to fund Fostering Cigar Wrapper Tobacco Production for one year. Cigar wrapper tobacco has traditionally been grown in New England states. Increased consumer demand for cigar products has expanded those boundaries into North Carolina. Being a novel crop to our state warrants the development of recommendations on fertilizer rates, curing methodology and enterprise budgets to foster the success of cigar wrapper tobacco.

  • $33,926 to NCSU’s Department of Crop and Soil Sciences for a one-year project titled Integrated Disease Management in Hemp. Industrial hemp producers are faced with many challenges from diseases, including a lack of fungicide chemistries. To address the management of fungal pathogens, this project will evaluate strain susceptibility and low-risk, organic plant health products.

  • $63,209 to NCSU’s Department of Crop and Soil Sciences for a one-year project titled Investigating Sesame Production in North Carolina. Exploratory plots of sesame were established in 2020 to determine feasibility of production in North Carolina. This research will investigate the feasibility and optimization of sesame production across the state’s diverse agricultural landscape with special emphasis on nitrogen fertilization and nematode resistance.

  • $60,769 to North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University for a one-year project titled IPM for Vegetable Amaranths in NC. Vegetable amaranth, not to be confused with pigweed, is a summer resilient vegetable that tastes somewhat like spinach and is a delicacy in high demand among immigrants from Asia, Central America and Africa. The proposal will develop a bio-intensive integrated pest management approach to control insect defoliators.

  • $79,404 to NCSU’s Department of Horticultural Science for a two-year project titled New Hop Varieties for North Carolina. There is an unmet demand for North Carolina grown hops to satisfy the craft beer industry. Because hops are a photoperiod sensitive plant, varieties bred for northern states produce low yields in NC. This project will conduct on-farm trials with two selections from NCSU’s breeding program for the purpose of releasing them as public varieties and to test cultural practices unique to hops.

  • $52,463 to NCSU’s Department of Crops and Soil Sciences to fund a two-year study titled Rice Development in North Carolina. There is a growing client-base for artisan and heirloom agricultural products. Carolina Gold Rice, grown on several plantations in southeastern N.C. from the late 1600s to the mid-1800s, is one of the specialty crops sought by this growing market. This project will evaluate several rice varieties under both dry-land and flood production, determine optimum nitrogen rates, evaluate several herbicides and evaluate efficient ways of drying the harvested grain.

  • $70,129 to NCSU’s Department of Horticultural Science to fund Strengthening and Expanding Muscadine Markets for two years. Over the past two decades, popularity of fresh market grapes, including new varieties of thin-skinned seedless muscadines, has increased. Production of fresh-market grapes requires knowledge and training at all steps, from soil preparation to post harvest and food safety practices. This project will set the groundwork to produce fresh market muscadines in an economically sound and safe system. The objectives will be to develop 1) a muscadine production education program, 2) an enterprise budget and 3) a comprehensive food safety certification curriculum for growers. Additionally, this project will demonstrate the potential for new muscadine production in western North Carolina.

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