Project GREEEN advancing Michigan plant agriculture for 20 years

For more than two decades, Project GREEEN has been working with the plant agriculture industry to address both short- and long-term issues.

Maninder Singh, an assistant professor in the Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences, has received funding from both Project GREEEN and M-AAA for a new project. He is seeking to improve the management of ear rot and fungal contamination of corn silage, a valuable feedstuff for cattle, swine and poultry. Contamination can result in health challenges for these animals.
Maninder Singh, an assistant professor in the Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences, has received funding from both Project GREEEN and M-AAA for a new project. He is seeking to improve the management of ear rot and fungal contamination of corn silage, a valuable feedstuff for cattle, swine and poultry. Contamination can result in health challenges for these animals.

In the first two decades of Project GREEEN (Generating Research and Extension to meet Economic and Environmental Needs), Michigan’s economy has been a significant beneficiary of its efforts, with an estimated total output impact of more than $2.5 billion.

A celebration in late 2018 included presentations on current research and outreach projects, as well as accomplishments from the initiative’s first two decades to commemorate the anniversary.

Project GREEEN — a partnership between Michigan State University (MSU) AgBioResearch, MSU Extension, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD), and more than 40 plant commodity and industry organizations — has provided a launching point for innovation, from combatting disease pressures and invasive insects to promoting sustainability and environmental stewardship.

“The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is proud to be a part of Project GREEEN, helping our agricultural community address challenges such as invasive pests and other diseases that could have a devasting impact on our farm families,” said Gary McDowell, MDARD Director. “The continual partnership between Project GREEEN, MDARD and our growers is an important piece to the future of Michigan’s food and agriculture business success.”

Project GREEEN is led by the Directors Action Team, which features directors of MSU AgBioResearch, MSU Extension and MDARD, in addition to others on an as-needed basis. Doug Buhler, the coordinator of Project GREEEN and director of MSU AgBioResearch, has been with the initiative in multiple roles for nearly its entirety.

Since the anniversary celebration, Buhler has met with plant agriculture commodity organization representatives to discuss the next steps for Project GREEEN. He said a key takeaway is that while the program has been a boon to plant agriculture, there’s much to be done on both enduring and emerging issues.

“While it’s important to acknowledge our past successes, we must also look to the future,” Buhler said. “It’s a time when plant agriculture is facing several major challenges, particularly with respect to our food supply. It’s imperative that we stay focused on the work that still needs to be done.”

The program has received more than $100 million in state support over its history. Project GREEEN researchers have leveraged those funds to garner further support through partnerships with commodity groups and private industry, as well as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other federal programs.

There are several examples of Project GREEEN serving as seed funding for long-term research projects. Many research endeavors initially supported by Project GREEEN to control spotted wing drosophila (SWD), an invasive pest that destroys soft-fleshed fruits, have led to significant support from the USDA and commodity organizations.

SWD has proved difficult to control, but Project GREEEN researchers are investigating from various perspectives. Researchers in the MSU Department of Entomology — Matt Grieshop, Larry Gut, Rufus Isaacs and Julianna Wilson, among others — have each delved into an aspect of the pest.

Topics include learning about SWD biology and overwintering; identifying attractants for traps; post-harvest management; and using a diversified set of tactics to lessen the burden on insecticides, such as alternative pruning and mulching practices.

Perry Ng and Venu Gangur, researchers in the MSU Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, received startup funding from Project GREEEN to develop a new model for wheat allergy testing.

“We’re proud that even through difficult financial times in Michigan, Project GREEEN has demonstrated that it’s a relevant and important investment,” Buhler said. “Support for our work on campus, at our research centers around the state, as well as with grower cooperators, has led to advancements in areas such as pest and disease management, and efficient use of water and other natural resources, just to name a couple.”

This article was published in In the Field, a yearly magazine produced by the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at Michigan State University. To view past issues of In the Field, visit www.canr.msu.edu/inthefield. For more information, email Eileen Gianiodis, editor, at gianiod1@msu.edu or call 517-355-1855.

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