UNL research in Panhandle boosted by USDA grant program

Several projects at the Panhandle Research and Extension Center are among the 13 specialty crop projects in Nebraska that will receive a total of $588,900 in funding for 2016 as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP).

The state’s program supports research, development and marketing of specialty crops. The Nebraska grants were announced by the Nebraska Department of agriculture, which administers it.

The Panhandle projects include one related to dry edible beans and two related to fenugreek, an ancient medicinal crop that is a potential alternative crop in the region. Another two research projects conducted in Lincoln will look at health and nutritional aspects of dry edible beans.

Specialty crops include dry edible beans, fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, horticulture and nursery crops. The 13 SCBGP projects being funded in the state will focus on increased research, production, food safety and health benefits.

“Nebraska’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program has been important in supporting projects that are significant to the state’s agriculture industry,” NDA Director Greg Ibach said in a news release issued by the department. “Specialty crops represent economic diversity for agriculture in Nebraska.”

The projects that involve dry beans and fenugreek include:

$76,642 for researching plant population in Great Northern and pinto bean production in western Nebraska (Dry Bean Breeding Specialist Carlos Urrea, principal investigator). The main goal is to identify optimal plant populations to improve yield of Great Northern ad Pinto bean cultivars.

$29,616 for identifying the best fenugreek cultivar for organic production in western Nebraska (Alternative Crops Breeding Specialist Dipak Santra, principal investigator). Research will focus on identifying the best cultivars following optimal planting and harvesting time under organic production conditions for high seed yield and quality through planting cultivars as replicated plots under irrigated and non-irrigated conditions.

$27,000 for determining the impact of fenugreek seed on gut health and the effects on obesity and insulin resistance (Dipak Santra, co-principal investigator). The project will determine the medicinal and market-value of Nebraska fenugreek seed in the U.S. nutraceutical and probiotic industries through researching fenugreek’s effect in boosting the population of disease-protective gut bacteria and its effect on high-fat diet induced obesity and insulin resistance.

Two other grants will fund dry bean research in the areas of health and nutrition:

$33,837 for developing the processing of dry edible beans as ready-to-eat snacks to retain a high concentration of folic acid (principal investigator, Devin Rose of the Food Science and Technology Department).

$135,804 for increasing education about the nutritional benefits of managing high cholesterol with Great Northern and pinto beans (principal investigator, Vicki Schlegel of the Food Science and Technology Department).

A listing of grants that were funded can be found on the USDA website at under SCBGP awards.

–UNL Extension