Idaho ag department awards $1.9 million to 15 specialty crop projects

Sean Ellis/Capital PressPotatoes grow in a field near Wilder, Idaho, in this June 28 photo. The Idaho State Department of Agriculture has awarded $1.9 million to 15 projects designed to benefit the state's specialty crop industry. Three potato-related projects were funded.

BOISE — Idaho’s specialty crop sectors will receive $1.9 million in grants this year from the Idaho State Department of Agriculture.

Fifteen projects were selected to receive money in 2016 through the ISDA’s specialty crop block grant program. The USDA pays for the grants as part of the Farm Bill.

During the program’s eight-year lifetime, more than $9 million has been directly injected into Idaho’s specialty crop industry, ISDA Director Celia Gould said in a news release.

“This has been another great year of receiving high-quality specialty crop grant projects,” Gould said.

Final funding approval by USDA is expected by the end of September. The agency has never denied funding for Idaho’s specialty crop projects in the past.

ISDA received 18 applications seeking a total of $2.3 million in funding this year.

Three projects that could benefit Idaho’s potato industry will receive funding.

The University of Idaho will receive $202,400 for a study that seeks to mitigate the effects of potato virus Y on Idaho potato varieties.

The Idaho Potato Commission will use a $109,300 grant to try to develop pale cyst nematode resistance in potato varieties grown in Idaho and a $93,700 grant to try to further develop international markets.

The ISDA approved four projects that could help Idaho’s wine grape industry.

The Idaho Wine Commission will receive $90,800 for a project designed to raise awareness of and promote the quality of Idaho wine and $27,200 to advance vineyard quality and production.

Boise State University will receive $75,600 to study the challenges and opportunities for the expansion of wine grape production in Idaho, and USDA’s Agricultural Research Service will receive $113,000 for a project to develop a sensor-based water stress index in vineyards to facilitate precision irrigation of wine grapes.

The Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Committee will receive $124,700 to develop disease management strategies for fusarium in onions and $61,000 to increase sales and create demand in international markets.

ISDA awarded $86,100 to the Idaho Apple Commission for a project designed to increase sales and build relationships with Idaho retailers.

Idaho Preferred will use a $222,000 grant to market the state’s specialty crops through advertising, social media and retail promotions.

A $90,400 grant awarded to Northwest Nazarene University will be used to develop a fruit counting application that estimates yield, and University of Idaho will use a $161,600 grant for a project designed to maximize yield and quality of peaches and nectarines.

The American Pulse Association will use a $132,900 grant to increase consumer knowledge and awareness of pulse crops.

The Idaho Nursery and Landscape Association was awarded a $99,300 grant to develop a new generation of native plant products that are aesthetically pleasing to consumers.

The nursery association has received several specialty crop grants over the past eight years, and administrator Ann Bates said they have been a major blessing to the industry.

“The things we have done with that money we would never have been able to do on our own because we’re such a small association,” she said.

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