Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences received a $400,000 federal grant this past Friday for upgrades to the Nematode Quarantine Lab.
The grant, awarded in person by Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), is meant to enable the Nematode Quarantine Lab to upgrade equipment and give researchers the tools they need to study nematodes and combat nematode epidemics. The grant is made possible by CALS’s land-grant status within the University.
Though microscopic, nematodes pose a sizable threat to crops in New York and the United States. Parasitic nematodes can harm plant root systems, eroding their ability to collect nutrients and water, according to Cornell’s Department of Plant Pathology.
Cornell’s Nematode Quarantine Lab is the only research facility in the nation equipped to effectively research “biology-resistant breeding and on-farm management to combat the pests” according to Kathryn Boor, the dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
One of the greatest concerns of policymakers, researchers and farmers alike is the parasites’ devastating effect on potato yields.
“The potato industry is a major component of both the Upstate New York economy and the nation’s food supply,” Schumer said in a press release. “Without the cutting edge work done at the Quarantine Facility, the nematode threat could become unmanageable and could threaten the health of this critical crop nationwide. Simply put, this new modern equipment will protect New York farmers from this dangerous threat.”
In New York alone, the potato industry is valued at $65 million and accounts for 20,000 acres of cropland distributed over 1,000 farms, according to Senator Schumer’s press release.
According to Schumer, the USDA agrees with scientists at the nematode lab that the Gold Nematode along with the Pale Cyst Nematode and Soybean Cyst pose enough danger to warrant the federal aid.
The $400,000 in federal funding is a supplement to the $1.2 million grant for the nematode lab allocated by the New York State Legislature in October of 2016.
For Schumer, the repercussions of this parasite would be incomprehensible, according to The Ithaca Voice
“A world without french fries would be a world I couldn’t even contemplate,” he said.