Colorado State University Scientists Awarded $2.4 Million to Help Diagnose Disease in Onions

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded Colorado State University and collaborating scientists $2.4 million to provide growers with new and better tools for diagnosing disease and providing pest management in onions.

Howard Schwartz, professor of plant pathology in the Department of Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management, will head up the CSU team. Also involved will be Whitney Cranshaw, professor of entomology, and Ned Tisserat, professor of plant pathology.

The CSU team will focus on developing, deploying and evaluating a new national online information pest management system in order to provide growers the information they need to make sound pest-management decisions. The warning system, which will focus on the onion thrips insect and Iris yellow spot virus, will provide innovative disease diagnostic tools of these problems and others for onion growers.

“Our national team of onion experts, growers and industry representatives is eager to launch this project in upcoming months as we address the many opportunities that will be available to continue to enhance the production, storage and marketing of this vital food product for the consuming public in the United States and internationally,” Schwartz said.

The 4-year grant is part of the USDA’s Specialty Crop Research Initiative, which was established by the 2008 Farm Bill. Specialty crops are defined as fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture.

“We are extremely excited about the opportunities this grant will provide for Howard and his team to address one of the most serious threats to onion production here in Colorado and nationwide,” said Thomas Holtzer, head of the Department of Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management. “It is a great tribute to Howard, as a scientist, an Extension Specialist and leader of a complex team effort, that this project was selected for support through a highly competitive USDA process.”

The system could spare growers costly interventions unless they are necessary. “It is great to see that the Specialty Crop Research Initiative will bring some of the intended benefits back to onion producers,” said Wayne Mininger, president of the National Onion Association. “This is a win-win for all.”

The CSU grant, which will involve collaborators from 11 other universities and industry groups, is one of 28 projects targeting the development of specialty crops. In all, $46 million in grants were awarded this week by USDA.