Proposals sought for specialty crop grants

Proposals will be accepted through Feb. 1 for a grant program promoting the production of fruits, vegetables and other specialty crops.

“This grant program provides a great opportunity to improve the economic well-being of Colorado specialty crop producers by investigating potential crops, fighting diseases and introducing innovative farming techniques,” said Glenda Mostek, a marketing specialist with the Colorado Department of Agriculture.

Specialty crops include fruits and vegetables as well as dried fruits and nursery crops, including sod.

The specialty crops block grants program is funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which partners with state departments of agriculture to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crop producers in such areas such as education, marketing, nutrition, promotion, research and trade.

Funds have been awarded to dozens of organizations to help them to conduct research and implement consumer promotions.

Earlier this year, Colorado State University received a grant for $57,078 to investigate the prevalence of the Phylloxera louse in Colorado vineyards and recommend best management practices to limit the infestation.

Phylloxera, an aphid-like insect that feeds on grapevine roots, was positively identified by entomologists with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service.

Phylloxera can take multiple forms during its life cycle. The most serious and damaging form, which was found in Mesa County, feeds on grapevine roots, in turn disrupting water and nutrient flow and damaging plants. Infested grapes appear weakened and stunted with leaves lighter in color that look as though they’re suffering from nutrient deficiency.

The Colorado Department of Agriculture expects that about $550,000 will be available for the upcoming year, with approved projects starting early in 2019.

Producer groups, organizations and associations as well as state and local organizations, academia and other specialty crops stakeholders are eligible to apply either as single entities or in combined efforts. Grants must affect the specialty crop industry as a whole and can’t solely benefit an individual farming operation or business.

The initial phase of grant selection will involve shorter concept proposals. Concept proposals must be received electronically by 5 p.m. Feb. 1. For program guidelines and an application, log on to www.colorado.gov/ag/specialtycropgrant or call (303) 869-9173.