Department of Media Relations
NASHVILLE, TN (TSU News Service) — A Tennessee State University project to promote best management practices in the nursery production system for the Mid-South region is one of 45 across the nation selected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to share $26.6 million for innovative conservation initiatives.
TSU will receive nearly $793,000 through its College of Agriculture, Human and Natural Sciences to enhance the current Southern Nursery Industry “Guide for Best Management Practices.”
As part of the project, TSU will also recommend modifications to the USDA NRCS Conservation Practice Standards that specifically address natural resource and water-quality concerns relating to the nursery industry in Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Georgia.
The three-year funding, received through a highly competitive grant process, is the first awarded by the USDA through its Conservation Innovation Grant program to an 1890 Land-Grant university. As a matching-funds grant, the total amount for the project is about $1.5 million.
Dr. Dharma Pitchay, assistant professor of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, is the principal investigator of the project. The co-principal investors are Drs. Bharat Pokharel, Sudipta Rakshit, Prabode Illukpitiya, Anthony Witcher and Chandra Reddy.
“This is a very prestigious grant to win as historically NRCS has not awarded CIG grants to 1890 universities,” said Reddy, who is dean of the College of Agriculture, Human and Natural Sciences.
He said TSU will partner with a number of institutions in the region to implement the project, as well as set up a training laboratory on campus to train NRCS or Natural Resources Conservation Services educators in the new technologies.
“Awarding this prestigious grant is an acknowledgment that Tennessee State University has immediately useful agricultural technologies to promote with stakeholder communities in the state and across the region. I congratulate Dr. Pitchay, the co-PIs and institutional partners in winning this grant for us,” Reddy added.
Pitchay said the anticipated outcome of the project would include a trained cadre of growers, extension workers, and field technicians, as well as modification to existing and development of new BMPs and conservation practices.
“We also expect to send messages to nursery growers on the benefits of protecting natural resources and demonstration sites for future conservation field days and training programs,” Pitchay said.