August 22, 2001

Agricultural research in Kentucky is getting a big boost from the federal government. U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell and University of Kentucky officials have announced that more than $11 million dollars is headed UK's way over the next two years. The grants are focused on a variety of projects to help the state's farmers stay profitable.

"Senator McConnell has worked closely with us and with Kentucky ag leaders to direct these grants toward our most promising opportunities," said Scott Smith, dean of the UK College of Agriculture. "These are exciting new projects which would not have been possible without this effort."

Recently received federal awards for 2001 total more than $3.5 million and will fund new research and training on crop diversification, livestock and forages, precision agriculture, post mining reforestation, international agricultural marketing, and plant genetics. Awards of approximately $7.4 million pending in the not-yet-finalized 2002 federal budget will allow continuation and expansion of the 2001 initiatives, plus start-up of three major programs: community-based health education; grazing animal health, to include both cattle and horses; and an enhanced, high-tech statewide weather monitoring system to be known as MesoNet.

"These grants and awards represent our commitment in Washington to supporting innovative, cutting-edge programs that keep Kentucky farmers competitive in these challenging times," said Senator McConnell, who led the effort to secure ag-related funding for Kentucky. More than $1.3 million will support advancements in production and marketing of horticultural products and specialty grains.

"Many of Kentucky's farm families must select enterprises that are profitable on small acreages, so we will use the funds to start the New Crop Opportunities Center to study the fruit, vegetable and ornamental production systems that will work the best, and the crops that are pest resistant and have good market potential," said Dewayne Ingram, chair of UK's horticulture department.

Ingram said bell peppers are just one example of a crop with good potential for expansion and increased profit.

"Peppers are a primary product in some of our new marketing cooperatives around the state, and for that reason one of the four horticulture projects initially funded by the New Crop Opportunities Center focuses on bell and specialty peppers," said Ingram.

Ingram said research also will be conducted on improving the quality and reducing the costs of producing fruit crops, such as blackberries, as well as floral and greenhouse crops.

More than $2 million of the USDA funds will go toward improved nutrition and health of grazing livestock.

"Forage-based livestock systems are critical to Kentucky's farm economy," said Michael Barrett, chair of UK's agronomy department. "We rank eighth nationally in total cattle, and forages occupy one-half of Kentucky's 13 million acres of agricultural land. With this new funding we expect to continue research into matching forage quality to nutritional needs of livestock."

"The approval of the 2002 projects on grazing animal health will also allow a substantial expansion of studies to prevent future equine health problems," Smith said.