UC Davis Researchers are Awarded $4.5 Million for Lettuce Project

Tue. October 27th, 2015 - by Jessica Donnel

DAVIS, CA - How much does the perfect salad cost? Well, if you ask the University of California, Davis, it looks like it may cost $4.5 million.

UC Davis has been awarded a $4.5 million grant by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture—all in the name of improving lettuce crops. 

From left: Professor Richard Michelmore, staff researcher Pauline Sanders, project scientist Maria Truco and doctoral candidate Miguel Macias Gonzalez. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

The five-year, renewable grant is part of the 2014 Farm Bill’s USDA’s Specialty Crop Research Initiative funding program. It will support a multidisciplinary research program aimed at leveraging new technologies to sustain the supply of lettuce in spite of changes in climate.

Richard Michelmore, Director, UC Davis Genome Center“We will be exploiting genomic technology to address the needs in all areas up and down the lettuce production chain,” said the project’s Leader Richard Michelmore, a plant geneticist and Director of the UC Davis Genome Center.

Research will range from identifying genes that are key to developing important stress-resistance traits in lettuce to fine-tuning imaging technologies that will allow growers to remotely assess the status of their crops in the field.

One of the project’s strengths, Michelmore added, is its longstanding collaborations with plant-breeding companies of all sizes, as well as the California Leafy Greens Research Board.

This isn’t the only grant offered to the university either, according to a press release, with a second USDA grant of $9,459 being awarded to UC Cooperative Extension cropping systems specialist Jeffrey Mitchell. This grant will be used to assess opportunities for applying established principles of conservation agriculture to high-value vegetable crops, the press release added.

In total, USDA’s Specialty Crop Research Initiative awarded $50 million in grants nationwide for projects ranging from plant genetics research to new product innovation and development of new methods for responding to food safety hazards. 

Could this be the start of a new age of leafy greens? If Michelmore has anything to say about it, it just might be.

UC Davis