Sponsoring Institution
National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Project Status
Funding Source
Reporting Frequency
Accession No.
Grant No.
Project No.
Proposal No.
Multistate No.
Program Code
Project Start Date
Feb 18, 2021
Project End Date
Sep 30, 2025
Grant Year
Project Director
Simon, JA, E..
Recipient Organization
Performing Department
Plant Biology
Non Technical Summary
Food insecurity directly impacts a third of the world's population and perpetuates a cycle of hunger and malnutrition that is inherited through generations. Continued population growth and pressures from climate change further threaten future food security. Domestically, commercial growers face increasing pressure to remain profitable due to diseases, abiotic stress, competition and rising costs and the COVID-19 pandemic has altered the shopping patterns of consumers, the distribution and value chain of foods including fresh horticultural produce. Even in the USA, increasing food security, and ensuring all families have access and are able to afford food, particularly nutritious foods is a challenge without a single solution. To break the cycle of food insecurity, poverty, and hunger, efforts must empower communities and facilitate real transformative changes and provide improved technologies including new and improved crops to farmers. With a strong demand to identify new functional food ingredients that can improve human health, that are safe to consume, and which can be commercialized, natural products from traditional fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices and aromatic plants, can provide such bioactive and functional food ingredients.We will continue to build upon our successful trans disciplinary holistic approach building upon the following pillars:(i) introduction and assessment of new crops, notably ethnic greens, herbs and medicinals;(ii) development of natural products and/or their synthetic analogues which may have potential in the food, beverage, nutraceutical, cosmetic and health sectors;(iii) where opportunities arise, studies leading to the crop improvement of those specific plants such as basil, catnip as a natural pest repellent, habanero peppers and others will be undertaken to develop new varieties for the marketplace; and(iv) develop and explore new agricultural food ecosystems that can address challenges in developing sustainable and innovative agricultural food ecosystems.Finally, we will embed into our research, storytelling and digital filmmaking as research that will then be used as a vehicle to disseminate and communicate science to the public (
Animal Health Component
Research Effort Categories

Knowledge Area (KA)Subject of Investigation (SOI)Field of Science (FOS)Percent
Goals / Objectives
Objective 1: To continue breeding efforts for culinary herbs (e.g. basil, catmint) for disease resistance, aroma and taste improvement in basil, and to maximize the yield of targeted bioactive compounds in basil and catnip.Objective 2: Evaluation of novel germplasm for the development and introduction of new crops, notably ethnic greens, herbs and medicinals (e.g. amaranth, hibiscus, edible nightshade and habanero peppers).Objective 3: To continue to develop sustainable models to increase food security and dietary diversity while exploring new approaches to agricultural food ecosystems both domestically and internationally.Objective 4: To evaluate germplasm and commercial varieties of hemp for their total THC, CBD, aromatic terpenes, fiber, oil, disease resistance, grown under different environmental systems and develop the best postharvest handling, storage and product preparation practices to generate the requisite quality control for the end use.Objective 5: To systematically isolate and characterize bioactive natural products and/or their synthetic analogues for their use and application(s) in the food, beverage, nutraceutical, cosmetic and health sectors.Objective 6: To continue to develop quality control systems and chemical standardization of the plants and plant extracts for selected botanicals in support of our USDA, NIH, and international programs that include GC/MS, HPLC and LC-MS methods of analysis.Objective 7: To examine the bioactivity of the plants and extracts for their applications in the food, beverage, cosmetic, and pest repellent industries.
Project Methods
Obj 1:We have been working toward the improvement of several culinary herbs and aromatic plants for disease resistance (basil),chilling tolerance(basil), and/or chemical improvements in total essential oil and/or essential oil constituents (catnip).We will continue such studies adding in additional traitsfor aroma and taste (basil)(Lee et al. 2017).Genetic resistance is the most effective, desirable and economical meansto overcome industry limitations ofdisease pressure and low yields.We developed sweet basil lineswith high fusariumwiltresistance(FOB) and downy mildew resistance(DMR). These lines will be screened for traitsincluding aroma, flavorand bitterness. The most promising lines will be crossed with each other and with available varieties and novel germplasm to gene stack new and improved lines together.We will be developing DMR Thai Basilsand DMR ornamental basils and will be screening catnip (Nepeta cataria) and catmint (Nepetaspp.) for powdery mildew resistance.Asystematic screening of commercial cultivars forthese diseasesalong with thegermplasm from the USDAOcimumgermplasm collectionand from EU germplasm banks(Park et al. 2007;Vieira et al. 2003, 2006).We anticipate screening over300 accessions that include more thansix species. In the late-summer and fall of each year, the pre-selected breeding lines and currently recommended varieties from the Rutgers University basil germplasm collection will be evaluated for resistance/tolerance toDMR, FOB, cold tolerance and for their aroma, taste and flavor using GC/MS and sensory panelists. The Rutgers global collection ofNepetaspp.and our breeding lineswill be field grown and evaluated for their resistance to powdery mildew and for high essential oil yield and highnepetalactones.Development of improved varieties with disease and chilling resistance.Once genotypes are identified that are exhibiting the desired traits they will be incorporated into the ongoing Rutgers breeding program. Our approach will combine classic breeding strategies asdescribed(Pyne et al,2014, 2015; 2017, Simon et al. 2020).In short,using basil as the template, this research will buildupon theO. basilicumpopulations of (1) Fusariumresistant (FR) populations,(2)DMR resistant populations,and (3) chilling tolerant(CT)populations.Three of ourRutgers DRMnew varieties (Rutgers Obsession DMR; Rutgers Devotion DMR; and Rutgers Passion DMR) will be reciprocally crossed with Rutgers leading FOB lines and in parallel with CT basils.The progeny will be field evaluated and selfed to create stable inbred uniform new lines with multiple new traits needed.Obj 2:Based upon aconsumerdemandand crop selection processwiththree ethnic populations(Govindasamy 2007a, 2007b;Sciarappaet al., 2016)many ethnic crops were identified as most in demand.Here,we will focus on examiningtheavailable commercial varieties and germplasm amongthosepopular minor crops thatwe observedgrow well in New Jersey (e.g.amaranth, hibiscus) and yet have not been extensively evaluated for their field performance (yield), seed and product quality. Each year, greenhouse and/orfield studies will be conducted in replicated trials to evaluate these materialstoselect the most promising (high seed germination, biomass yield, and resistance to insects, diseases and other issues) and tofurther development of new habanero peppers. The most promising germplasm plants will be selected, selfed, and inbred lines created for new variety release and/or as for the breeding across some of the inbred lines and/or inbred with commercial varieties for the recombination of traits to create a new and improved variety.Obj 3:Using the Rutgers University led FEEDS model developed (Simon et al. 2021) to increase food security anddietary diversity we explorenew approaches and ways to engage communities to have increased access to fresh and nutritious foodsfrom working with urban and rural farmers, developing new technologies for indoor and controlled agricultural- horticultural production to improvedagricultural food ecosystems. Some of the planned work will be non-experimental in identifying pathways for food system adaption and resiliency, evaluate the distribution and availability of foods and challenges insitespecific areas; and to build teams of researchers and actors along the value chain (from farm to table) to design and test the implementation of innovative food systems.Obj 4:Ashempfor CBD, fiber and other applications (not including medical cannabis)isa new crop for New Jersey,there is littlelocalinformation as to which hemp varieties and accessions can be grown safelyto ensure that theTHC contentremainsunder 0.3% (10-12% dry weight basis); and how the THC levels can vary over the growing season and in particular once the 'buds' form on the plant. Environmental, management and genetics all interact. During this 5-year project, we will analyze field grown and greenhouse grown hemp under a number of different growing systems (fertility, mulch,containersvs.field) and track the growth and development and chemistry. Using our new dedicated'hemp analytics lab', we will use an Agilent LC to quantitate the total THC and the majorcannabinoids (CBDs); and a Shimadzu GC/MS for aromatic terpenes and hemp seed oil for fatty acids. Samples will largely be coming from the hemp field team of primarily consisting of faculty from Rutgers Cooperative Extension whom will lead production and our role will be to lead all the chemical analyses. Additionally, we have observed powdery mildew (PM) and fusarium wilt on field grown hemp (FOH) and will culture the PM and FOH and seek to identify resistant plants to each of these diseases using the samesuccessfulapproach as described for basil DM and FOB studies. We will isolate, purify and ensure the inoculation is virulent and then use controlled dosages of theinoculum to screen large amounts of accessions and plant varieties to identify whether any resistance can be observed.Lastly,specialized dryingchambers that adjust the temperature and relative humidity and are used for accelerated aging studieswill be usedin Yrs 1 and 2 to examine postharvest impact of harvest times, drying (adjusting temperatures and relative humidify combinations) and other postharvest curing processes on THC and CBDs. Once those parameters are established, in Years 3-5, we will focus on processing technologies.Objs 5-7:We will continue to useourcurrent approachesthatfirst screenplants for antioxidant activity, total phenol contentor other activities.Witharomatic plants and those containing fatty acidsand/or volatileconstituentsof interest, GC/MS isthen used to identify the compounds and then to quantitate them as needed. For those compounds withmedicinal activity includingpolyphenols, alkaloids, saponins, weuseHPLC/UV/MSorUPLC/QQQ/MS.For NIH and in vivo and in vitro, our role is to ensure botanical materials are authenticated using NIH guidelines to ensure from field to lab quality is maintained (Sorkin et al. 2020;Weaver et al.2008).Methods of analysis and compound recovery are then examined and as needed for specific projects, we develop protocols and procedures for standardizing the extracts for biological testing.Abio-directed fractionation approachis used to identify compound(s)responsible for the medicinal activity and samples that come to us from animal and/or human trials that are conducted under their institutional IRB approvals, weconductmetabolomic studies to identify the compounds following consumption.Various chromatographic separations including preparative HPLCareused, as needed. Analytical HPLC andLC/MSwill be used for detection and purity check. Two antioxidant screens via scavenging DPPH and ABTS free radicals testare the screensperformed onmostplants and extracts.When stability and absorption are concerns with natural products, wewill makesynthetic analogues and then compare to the original natural products (e.g.theflavonoid,dihydromyricetin).