Pecan industry representatives are invited to join research and Cooperative Extension scientists Feb. 13-15 at the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation in Ardmore to establish research priorities and develop proposals to seek extramural funding that will benefit the pecan industry.

“We want people to get this important meeting on their calendars and express their interest in attending as early as possible,” said Paul Weckler, program co-coordinator and Oklahoma State University associate professor of biosystems and agricultural engineering. “Exact meeting times, sessions and other conference details will be shared with participants at a later date, as we’re still fine-tuning a few specifics of the agenda.”

The first day of the meeting will focus on establishing a “needs assessment” based on stakeholder input to ascertain and rank priorities in production, processing and distribution, as well as consumer expectations and retail markets.

The next two days of the meeting will be dedicated to developing proposals to seek funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) and other funding agencies.

“Grant funding is an essential component of successful programs,” Weckler said. “Support for a viable and productive program must come from extramural grants.”

Teams of individuals from different professional disciplines will focus on developing multistate and multi-institutional project proposals – bolstered by matching funds from industry – to demonstrate the type of active partnership necessary to solving critical problems and advancing the pecan industry.

“Normally, if industry contributes a small percentage of the funds requested, the chances of receiving grant monies from funding agencies are significantly increased,” Weckler said. “Industry support is a key component that reviewers use to determine the perceived worth of a proposal.”

Opportunities for funding

SCRI offers the opportunity to secure significant funding that would support a large, well-defined research and Cooperative Extension effort. However, the grant program is extremely competitive, and projects must address at least one of five focus areas:

● Research in plant breeding, genetics and genomics;
● Efforts to identify and address threats from pests and diseases;
● Thrusts to improve production efficiency, productivity and profitability;
● New innovations and technology; and
● Methods to prevent, detect, monitor, control and respond to potential food safety hazards in the production and processing of specialty crops.

Stakeholder input crucial

“Stakeholder input is vitally important, and all research and Cooperative Extension scientists with interest are invited and encouraged to attend and participate in this planning process, as well as the subsequent proposals,” said Mike Smith, program co-coordinator and OSU Regents professor of horticulture. “Outcomes of this meeting will prove beneficial as proposals are submitted to various agencies.”

The meeting is funded by a grant from the SCRI and matching funds from pecan grower organizations in Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Georgia. USDA scientists are eligible to participate in the proposal preparation, but their salaries cannot be used as matching funds in the proposals.

USDA established the SCRI program to solve critical industry issues through research and Cooperative Extension activities.

Anyone seeking additional information about the Feb. 13-15 meeting should contact Weckler by e-mail at paul.weckler@okstate.edu or by phone at 405-744-8399, or Smith by e-mail at mike.smith@okstate.edu or by phone at 405-744-6463.