National Sclerotinia Initiative
This coordinated research project was created to minimize the devastating effects of sclerotinia (white mold or stem rot), a fungal disease affecting broadleaf plants such as canola, soybeans, sunflowers, dry edible beans and pulses (dry peas, lentils and chickpeas). The National Sclerotinia Initiative was established by the U.S. Canola Association, American Soybean Association, National Dry Bean Council, National Sunflower Association and USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council. This multi-state, multi-crop research program is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service.
The National Sclerotinia Initiative began when Congress awarded $960,000 for the 2002 fiscal year and it has gotten funding each year ever since. This is largely due to many accomplishments to date, which prove how far research dollars can go.
Sclerotinia generates hard, black bodies called sclerotia that can remain in the soil for many years. Under the right weather conditions, the sclerotia produce spores that spread for miles and can infect a susceptible crop. The fungus causes serious economic loss by negatively impacting crop quality and yields.
Collective annual losses for the crops participating in the initiative have been as high as $252 million. This includes $100 million for sunflowers, $70 million for soybeans, $46 million for dry edible beans, $24 million for canola and $12 million for pulse crops.