The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded a specialty Crop Research Initiative grant of $7 million to a project in which Lehigh’s College of Business is taking part. The project, titled “Focusing on Novel Pest and Disease Management Strategies for U.S. Mushroom Farms,” aims to develop new technology, basic science, outreach, and management strategies for mushroom pests and diseases, addressing an urgent need as insect pests, mold, and virus diseases pose recurring problems on mushroom farms in the U.S., leading to losses of 10% to 15% of mushroom crops each year.
The four-year endeavor is led by Penn State University and involves researchers and extension personnel from five universities. The team comprises experts in various fields such as plant pathology, computer science, and economics. Lehigh Business will be represented in the project by Phil Coles, a teaching associate professor in the decision and data analytics department, and Todd Watkins, a professor of economics and executive director of the Martindale Center for the Study of Private Enterprise. Their collaboration aims to optimize economic solutions and model the entire ecosystem.
This partnership with Lehigh Business highlights a growing effort by the USDA to include a broader set of skills such as social sciences and business in research projects. The goal is to promote research that extends beyond laboratories into marketplaces with a focus on circular economy life cycle supply chains reusability efficiency energy use sustainability issues.
The USDA sees this project as a way to further support the U.S specialty crops sector enhance its competitiveness creating new opportunities for American farmers