The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture has awarded an approximate $1.5 million grant to Vijay Joshi, Ph.D., a plant systems physiologist at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Uvalde and an associate professor in the Texas A&M Department of Horticultural Sciences.
Joshi will lead the three-year research project, which is designed to help overcome challenges facing organic spinach production, because production is not keeping pace with demand, according to a press release from Texas A&M AgriLife.
The project is funded under NIFA’s Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative. An initial first-year funding of more than $450,000 was provided for the project.
Project collaborators include Ainong Shi, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Horticulture at University of Arkansas; Micaela Colley, program director for the Organic Seed Alliance, Port Townsend, Washington; and Alice Formiga, a professor of practice in the Oregon State University Department of Horticulture.
“Spinach, the most popular nutrient-rich staple vegetable, has notoriously high pesticide residues when grown conventionally,” according to the Agrilife press release. “Organic production eliminates the use of inorganic fertilizers and pesticides, but most spinach varieties used for low-input organic production are poorly adapted and cause substantial yield gaps as compared to conventional farming.”
“Organic spinach growers need varieties adapted to growing conditions and qualities demanded by consumers,” Joshi said, adding that another challenge is how to enhance seed production and availability.
“A productive research project is one that would ensure high-quality, nutritionally beneficial and safe food for society produced through sustainable agriculture,” Joshi said.
Project results will be disseminated nationally through eOrganic, Organic Seed Alliance and other university-initiated outreach programs, agricultural publications and field days.