For the last seven decades, Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) has been leading the fight against nematodes—invasive, microscopic worms that can destroy seasons' worth of crops. However, researchers had been working in a facility that lacked the infrastructure to keep pace with their innovative work. On August 1, 2019, thanks to a $1.2 million grant from New York State and another $400,000 in federal funding, CALS cut the ribbon on the new Golden Nematode Quarantine Facility, located on the Cornell campus in Ithaca, NY. The facility is the only research program in North America with expertise in biology, resistance breeding and management of potato-cyst nematodes. At the lab, Cornell scientists work in tandem with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agriculture Research Service (ARS).
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Cornell University. College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Virginia Tech entomologist Muni Muniappan has warned of Tuta absoluta’s likely arrival into the United States since he began monitoring the pest's spread throughout Africa in 2012. Thanks to a joint grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Muniappan's team and collaborators will be able to model the pest's entry into the United States — protecting the country's billion-dollar tomato industry — before irreparable damage is caused. Tuta absoluta is a tomato pest native to South America. If left unmitigated, it has the potential to destroy 100 percent of tomato crops. In 2016, the pest caused a "tomato emergency" in such countries as Nigeria, where tomatoes are a lifeline for many smallholder farmers. With the U.S. as one of the world's leaders in tomato production, the pest's impact would be severe if nothing is done to stop it. The USDA's Food and Agriculture Cyberinformatics Tools Initiative awarded the University of Virginia's Biocomplexity Institute and Virginia Tech the four-year, $500,000 grant to project the pest's movement and rate of spread into the U.S. The model, to be developed by the Biocomplexity Institute, will map the spread of invasive species over time, accounting for factors such as climate, biology, and demographic information.