Organization: Department of Agriculture (USDA)

Research Title: Improved Response Models

Funding Level (millions of dollars):

FY94 9.2
FY95 8.3
FY96 8.8

Committee on Environment and Natural Resources (CENR) Component:
(a) Subcommittee: Global Change Research Committee (85%) Biological Diversity and Ecosystem Research Subcommittee (7.5%); Resource Use and Management Research Subcommittee (7.5%) Risk Assessment Group NSTC Committee on Fundamental Science
(b) Environmental Issue: Climate Change (50%); Ozone and Ultraviolet Radiation (30%); Understanding Processes (20%)
(c) Research Activity: Impacts and Adaptation: Ecological systems (20%); System Structure and Function: Understanding (80%)

Organizational Component:
USDA/NRICGP
AG Box 2241
Washington, D.C. 20250-2241

Point of Contact:
Anne H. Datko
Phone: 202-401-4871
E-Mail: adatko@reeusda.gov

Research Goals:
Increased understanding of the fundamental mechanisms, at the whole plant, cellular, or molecular level, of the plant response to environmental factors (both natural and anthropogenic) is sought through investigator-initiated projects. Environmental factors include those associated with climate change (e.g., carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, water, temperature, light {including UV-B}), nutrients, gaseous pollutants, and heavy metals.

Research Description:
Examples of investigator-initiated research to be supported include but are not limited to: (a) expression and regulation of genes and gene products that are relevant in plant response to environmental factors; (b) identification of physiological, biochemical, cellular, morphological, and phenological changes that take place in plants in response to environmental signals; and (c) the interactions of multiple factors and how they affect plant physiological processes.

Program Interfaces:
The NRICGP Plant Responses to the Environment program is a part of the basic, developmental, demonstration and application research continuum in the Department of Agriculture in cooperation with state, local and private concerns. The NRICGP Plant Responses Program was established to develop the knowledge needed to understand the impact of possible environmental changes on sustainability and economic viability of agriculture. The information will also support more applied research programs that enhance landscape management efficiency while restoring environmental integrity. This program, as well as other NRICGP Program, is also an integral part of USDA's Global Change program.

Program Milestones:
Milestones for the NRI Competitive Grants Program are set and passed continuously. Agricultural interests are represented by a wide spectrum of groups and individuals, who constantly experience and are, thus, in touch with critical agricultural needs. These interests, which include farmers, consumers, commodity and environmental groups and government agencies, understand and identify what data must be provided by research to meet these critical needs. Research areas needed are described and announced yearly to the research community in the form of a solicitation of research proposals (Program Description). Proposals received in response to the solicitation are scrutinized through competitive peer review to asses whether they will make best use of limited funds to provide the critical data needed in a defined period of time, and, further, whether the proposal demonstrates that the data will be published in a timely manner--thus allowing for further return on the investment of competitively awarded funds. Each project which has successfully competed for funds has defined milestones to be reached within two or three years. These must be met if the scientist is to be considered for further competitive funds.

Policy Payoffs:
This program will provide basic information that will be useful in determining the mechanisms, intensity and potential extent of damage to plants that results from climate change including UV-B radiation, soil, water and atmospheric pollution, and other natural or anthropogenically-imposed environmental stresses. Such information will be valuable in risk assessments, policy decision-making including international agreements, agricultural planning, and long-term socioeconomic planning.