Virginia Tech President Charles W. Steger announced today that the university's Office of International Research, Education, and Development (OIRED) has received the largest single-day award to any university by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Economic Growth, Agriculture, and Trade Program in the form of two grants totaling $34 million over 5 years. The work will enhance food security while limiting negative impacts on natural resources through sustainable agricultural programs in developing countries.

Under the terms of the competitively awarded grants, Virginia Tech will be the lead university and the Management Entity (ME) for significant agricultural research and assistance programs designed to improve crop yields through ecologically sound practices for people in developing nations around the world. Of the $34 million, $5 million for each of the two projects will be garnered from the USAID missions around the world.

The USAID uses U.S. land grant universities to promote its development assistance through the mechanism of Collaborative Research Support Programs (CRSPs). There are nine CRSPs, each with a distinct mission.

Virginia Tech is now the only university managing two CRSP projects. One $17-million grant provides for Phase III in USAID's Integrated Pest Management Collaborative Research Support Program (IPM CRSP). Virginia Tech also managed Phase I and Phase II for the past 11 years. During Phase III, Virginia Tech will initiate new IPM activities through competitive grants for regional pest management programs, as well as for pest management problems of global concern.

The second $17-million award makes Virginia Tech the lead institution and the Management Entity (ME) in the Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resource Management Collaborative Research Support Program (SANREM CRSP), which was formerly managed by another land-grant university with Virginia Tech as a sub grantee for the West Africa program. These ecologically based programs help people in developing countries worldwide implement the latest knowledge to manage natural resources and agriculture with the fewest negative impacts, emphasizing ecologically based management of pests and land use methods to enhance productivity, food security, and preservation and enhancement of natural resources.

"Virginia Tech's world-class researchers are identifying and addressing problems that challenge the day-to-day lives of people in every corner of the world," said Steger. "And through our strong partnerships with other universities and government and non-government organizations, as well as with individual families and farmers, we are putting knowledge to work to give people greater economic self-sufficiency and a more secure future. A strong Virginia Tech faculty and staff, partners, and collaborating institutions are ready to implement these two projects immediately."

"Research results will benefit the countries involved through increased farm income, reduced pesticide use, greater involvement of women in Integrated Pest Management and natural resource management decision-making, and increased sustainable agriculture and natural resource management research and education," said S.K. De Datta, associate provost for international affairs and director of the Office of International Research, Education, and Development (OIRED) at Virginia Tech. "Virginia and the United States will benefit through reduced pesticide residues on imported fruits and vegetables, expanded demand for our export products as incomes grow in developing countries, and reduced threats from invasive species."

De Datta also pointed out that IPM CRSP research over the past decade has assisted the United States, most recently by preparing scientists for an insect invasion that threatened the $100-million-a-year olive crop in California.

Virginia Tech has been researching and implementing Integrated Pest Management (IPM) for more than a quarter century. IPM identifies and targets crop pests such as invasive pests, insect-transmitted plant viruses, and harmful native pests, using a combination of tactics, including crop management, biological controls, and limited use of pesticides, to reduce both costs and ecological impacts. In the last 11 years, Virginia Tech's program has increased farmers' profits from California to the Philippines, and has reduced poverty and pollution. For example: IPM research has identified key pests in Uganda (coffee wilt pathogen), Philippines (onion root knot nematode), Mali and Bangladesh (tomato leaf curl geminiviruses), the Caribbean (pepper gall midge), and Central America (snow pea leafminer). At one site in the Philippines, those benefits were estimated at $150,000 a year for 4,600 local residents of six villages.

De Datta said that the goal of the IPM Collaborative Research Support Program is to develop and implement worldwide a replicable, integrated approach to pest management that will reduce agricultural losses, mitigate damage to natural ecosystems, and prevent contamination of food and water supplies. "The program will be designed around Regional IPM Centers of Excellence and cross-cutting global IPM themes, such as invasive species, insect-transmitted viruses, regional diagnostic laboratories, IPM information technologies and databases, and impact assessment. Technical, social, policy, economic, and education issues will be addressed."

Building on Virginia Tech's earlier projects, IPM programs will be established in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and elsewhere to address pest management problems and to build institutional capacity.

As the sub-grantee for West Africa to the University of Georgia during the previous phase of the Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resource Management (SANREM) Collaborative Research Support Program for six years, Virginia Tech helped crop and livestock farmers resolve differences over the land use and access to water. Providing information about weather, soil, cropping systems, livestock management, water availability, and the tools for agricultural and natural resource management resulted in better communication, decision-making, and land use in the region. Researchers also published a book and numerous articles. Four students earned graduate degrees.

As the ME and lead institution for the SANREM program, "Virginia Tech's OIRED will focus the world-wide project on the nexus between sustainable agriculture and natural resource management knowledge—its discovery, organization, and dissemination in and outside the classroom," said De Datta. "We will complement and reinforce the strengths of our development partners who depend upon this knowledge: host country institutional partners, the NGO community and private sector, the donor community, and our research partners in universities, the National Agricultural Research Services, and International Agricultural Research Centers. We will also position SANREM to contribute significantly to USAID's strategic objectives, targeting the development and transfer of technologies for improved land management, strengthened local institutions, and improved market access for smallholders and communities around the world.

"To implement our vision we have structured our consortium around strong researchers, world-class institutional partners, and an excellent project management team," De Datta said. A number of other U.S. universities, International Agricultural Research Centers all over the world, organizations, and private sector groups supported Virginia Tech's application.

OIRED is part of Outreach and International Affairs (OIA) at Virginia Tech, which links the university to businesses, government agencies, individuals, and communities in the Commonwealth, nation and the world.

Virginia Tech's Project Partners

Partners for the SANREM CRSP are:
Iowa State University
North Carolina State University
Purdue University
Rodale Institute
University of Colorado
Washington State University
Winrock International Institute for Agricultural Development

Partners for the IPM CRSP are:
Consortium for International Crop Protection (CICP)
Clemson University
Michigan State University
North Carolina A&T
North Carolina State University
Ohio State University
Penn State University
Purdue University
Univ. of California at Davis