Building a Network to Enhance Collaboration for Agricultural Biosecurity

Agricultural biosecurity is vital to maintain sustainability in the US food and agriculture industry against threats from pests and diseases.

NIFA engages in many programs, working groups and networks — in both plant and animal systems that support the tactical sciences for agricultural biosecurity mission — by identifying and preparing for the entry, outbreak or spread of both diseases and pests. More specifically, these programs involve plant and animal health, antibiotic resistance, food safety, education for disaster response and others.

In 2018, NIFA funded the Tactical Sciences Coordination Network (TSN), managed by Kansas State University, which focuses on bringing agricultural biosecurity-related programs together. This network works to identify the challenges, shared ideas and opportunities for collaboration that elevate nutritional security, early detection and rapid response, and agricultural biosecurity.

At a location around Reading, Pennsylvania, USDA Agricultural Research Service entomologist Kim Hoelmer inspects a tree limb infested with SLF-spotted lanternfly. USDA Photo by Stephen Ausmus.

Above, two researchers at the ARS Plum Island Animal Disease Center are working to find solutions to contain African Swine Fever and prevent its spread if it ever came to the United States. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.

Currently, the TSN has engaged with the three Food and Agriculture Defense Initiative programs:

TSN has also engaged with NIFA’s Crop Protection and Pest Management programs, Minor Crop Pest Management Program (IR-4), and the Minor Use Animal Drugs Program. These programs have their own crucial function within the network, which includes developing and implementing surveillance programs, detection of plant or animal disease, supporting outbreak response, and coordinating management and recovery programs.

TSN’s objectives are to organize meetings with tactical science-related programs to identify common issues, develop strategies for outreach and develop a public-private partnership model to protect the US agriculture industry.

In 2020, TSN representatives conducted podcast interviews to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for each program, as well as opportunities for future collaborations between programs. The TSN is working to finalize the content and post these interviews.

The TSN coordination team also observed that there is a need for connections and collaborations between programs and increased familiarity with other tactical science-related programs.

Eight common themes were identified as areas for future work, including:

  • Collaboration
  • Lab standards
  • Surveillance
  • Workforce development
  • Sustainability
  • Communication
  • Stakeholder input
  • Equipment obsolescence

NIFA has established an internal Agricultural Biosecurity Working Group to facilitate coordination across program areas within the agency.

The TSN serves to broaden public awareness of the impacts and activities of various NIFA-supported tactical science programs. The network promotes leveraging of resources, increased collaboration and the ability to share ideas and knowledge across tactical sciences programs and individual projects. This community-based approach increases the benefits provided by the entire tactical science program portfolio for US animal and plant production by enabling better detection, response and recovery measures through more effective and coordinated biosecurity research, education and Extension efforts.

You can find more information related to this grant by visiting the Tactical Sciences Network website.

Funding Source/Program/Award Number/Accession Number

AFRI Competitive Grant/Tactical Sciences for Agricultural Biosecurity/2019-67013-29812/1019623

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