Funding is to be used for research into finding ways to protect food from pests and diseases.

MANHATTAN, KANSAS, U.S. — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has awarded Kansas State University (KSU) more than $1 million to be used for research into finding ways to protect food from pests and diseases.

The funding includes $539,983 to support the Great Plains Diagnostic Network (GPDN), and $499,999 for research being conducted in Manhattan, Kansas, U.S., to eventually eliminate the use of methyl bromide in fumigants that control insects in wheat and rice.

KSU said it has been the lead institution for GPDN since the network was formed in 2002, and is one of five regional laboratories in the National Plant Diagnostic Network, which detects and reports pathogens that cause plant diseases of national interest, particularly those that may represent a biosecurity risk. The network of laboratories ensures that land-grant universities across the country are alerted quickly of possible plant-disease outbreaks and are equipped to respond rapidly, KSU said.

Methyl bromide has been used for decades to control soil-borne and post-harvest pests and diseases, and Kun Yan Zhu, professor in the Department of Entomology at KSU, said the NIFA grant marks the fourth time since 2006 that the university has received a grant to work on alternatives to using methyl bromide.

“The long-term goal of this project is to develop and implement systems-based, integrated pest-management programs that replace methyl bromide as a structural treatment for food facilities, such as mills, processing plants and warehouses,” Zhu said.

Zhu and colleague Ronaldo Maghirang, a professor of biological and agricultural engineering, are working on the project with scientists at the Center for Grain and Animal Health Research at the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Manhattan, as well as a researcher at Oklahoma State University.

KSU’s awards are part of $9.4 million that NIFA awarded recently for more effective pest management. Since 2014, NIFA has awarded $64.5 million toward these efforts.