West Virginia State University announced that it will receive more than $1.6 million in research grant funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
The university will use part of the money to help fund three projects focusing on research to improve agriculture production in West Virginia, WVSU said in a news release. While the scope of each project differs, the work will focus on plant breeding techniques meant to increase disease resistance in crops such as tomatoes and melons; understanding reproductive barriers to improve cultivated tomatoes; and studying the health benefits of squash and pumpkins, including their potential as anti-cancer and anti-diabetic agents. Other projects deal with the study of hibiscus flowers and the application of genomic technologies for Appalachian mine site reclamation.
The rest of the money will go toward teaching grants. One project to be funded by a grant will expose college students to global genomic impacts in agriculture, and another will use biotechnology and crop diversity-oriented curricula to recruit high school students into science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, disciplines.
According to USDA stipulations, no school could receive more than 10 percent of the allotted $18 million in available funding. WVSU’s award totals approximately $1.63 million and is the largest amount the university has received in one funding cycle from the competitive grant program, the news release stated.
“This is great news and speaks volumes to the fact that we have talented research and teaching faculty at the university,” Orlando F. McMeans, WVSU’s vice president for research and public service, said in the release.
WVSU was one of 18 institutions in the nation eligible to compete in the program, which is exclusive to the nation’s 1890 land-grant universities. West Virginia State also is one of the smallest.
“To be one of the smallest and youngest research programs in the 1890 land-grant family, WVSU receiving nearly the maximum amount of allotted funding is amazing,” Robert Barney, associate dean and associate director of research at WVSU, said in the release.
The monies fund seven proposed research projects, including joint initiatives with Alcorn State University in Mississippi and Southern University in Louisiana.
Launched in 1990, the 1890 Institution Teaching and Research Capacity Building Grants Program strengthens the linkages among the 1890 institutions, other colleges and universities, USDA and private industry, while improving the quality of academic and research programs at the 1890 institutions. The program focuses on advancing cultural diversity in the scientific and professional work force by attracting and educating more students from underrepresented groups. It is authorized by section 1417 (b)(4) of the National Agricultural Research, Extension and Teaching Policy Act of 1977.