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The T-STAR program provides high quality research results which contribute to an improved quality of life for all people in the tropical and subtropical regions of the United States of America.

To develop high quality and useful agricultural research which is relevant to industry needs, has a demonstrated impact, protects the environment, enhances economic opportunities, and provides for the social well-being of the people in the tropical and subtropical regions of the United States of America through collaborative efforts.

Agriculture, in the United States of America, includes an important, but often overlooked, component geographically situated in broadly distributed locations having a tropical or subtropical environment. Many of these islands have unique ecosystems and related opportunities. Often the people involved in these regions are in minority groups struggling to emerge from poverty and to develop an improved quality of life.

Formerly dominated by a "plantation" paradigm of production of limited numbers of crops such as pineapple and bananas, this segment of United States agriculture is rapidly diversifying to take advantage of its climate and indigenous plant and animal species in the production and processing of a variety of exciting new products.

The often fragile ecosystems in these areas are attractive and integral to rapidly growing industries related to tourism and recreation. Prudent use of these natural resources to achieve the goal of improved economic activity from agriculture, while preserving and enhancing the environmental and natural resource base requires an active and ongoing program of research and development that is now being provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Special Grant in Tropical and Subtropical Agriculture Research (T-STAR).

This document lays out a strategy for refocusing and continuing the Tropical and Subtropical Agriculture Research program in the context of the rapidly changing external and internal environments in which it exists. The program continues its orientation to the Caribbean and Pacific Basins but is redirected to more adequately capture the intersection between environment, natural resources, and production of food and fiber.

The strategy expresses broad outcome oriented goals and more specific objectives that will meet the changing needs of United States agriculture in tropical and subtropical locations.

While the strategy is developed in terms of projected needs and outcomes, it also recognizes that certain structural and institutional goals are also relevant to achieving these goals. For instance, it is implicit in this plan that the spectrum of research from discovery to application may be involved in achieving the stated goals. In some instances, the program must provide information on related issues such as nutritional value of the products of island agriculture. An inherent strength of the program is the development and expansion of collaboration between the universities involved in the Caribbean and Pacific Basins. A further strength is that the program is conducted in institutions which have established extension capabilities to facilitate the technology transfer process.           Back to Top

Action Plan for Program Goals

Current Agricultural Products - Environment - Value-Added Agriculture
New Food and Fiber Products - Expanding Agricultural Linkages - Decision Support Systems

Goal 1  Current Agricultural Products
Provide research that maintains and enhances production of established tropical and subtropical agricultural products.

Current agricultural production systems in tropical island economies are heavily impacted by pest and disease problems and market transportation constraints including quarantine issues, both politically and scientifically-based. These problems weigh heavily on the economic viability of current agricultural products. Solutions to these problems must consider the maintenance and enhancement of productivity, quality, and the implementation of environmentally sound sustainable practices.

- Develop new or enhanced plant and animal production and protection practices that are environmentally sound and sustainable, and maintain, or enhance, productivity and quality.

- Improve the production performance and quality of existing tropical and subtropical plants and animals through genetics, introduction of new germplasm, traditional breeding and biotechnology.

Goal 2   Environment
Develop agricultural practices in the tropics and subtropics that are environmentally acceptable through an agroecosystems approach.

Tropical and subtropical island ecosystems are finite and extremely fragile. Increased tourism and population are impacting these ecosystems through increasing utilization and destruction of natural resources including the importation of exotic pests. Current and new agricultural production systems must be environmentally sound with minimal impacts on natural resources.

- Develop economically viable biological control methods for serious island tropical pests and diseases which reduce or eliminate the use of environmentally harmful chemicals.

- Develop natural resource conservation strategies for the regions.

- Develop practical systems for management of fertility of tropical and subtropical soils.

- Develop economically viable animal waste management systems and practices for island ecosystems.         Back to Top

Goal 3   Environment Value-Added Agriculture
Enhance the role of value-added agriculture in tropical island ecosystems.

Plantation agricultural production systems (e.g. bananas, sugar, pineapple, etc.) in island economies have historically exported the "raw agricultural products" with the exception of vertically integrated companies. The value was then added at the raw products final destination. Destination value was increased by a factor of 2 to 5 times with additional postharvest handling, processing, packaging, and (or) marketing. New knowledge and technologies must be developed which support island private sector development of new value-added products and markets.

- Enhance the quality, shelf life and safety of perishable tropical agricultural products.

- Develop generic technology for new and improved processing, manufacturing and marketing methods aimed at the products of tropical agriculture.

- Define the principles for regionalization of agricultural production, processing and marketing among U.S. island communities to expand markets, extend time of availability of perishable products, and improve supply, quality and quality control.

- Optimize the impact of regulatory constraints on marketing of products of tropical island agriculture, ensuring the appropriate intersection between safety and minimum constraints.

Goal 4   New Food and Fiber Products  
Expand and diversify presently unexploited food and fiber products which have potential for commercial production in the U.S. tropical and subtropical regions.

Tropical and subtropical island economies are rapidly changing with the decrease of plantation agriculture, the increases in tourism in the region, and the increasing demand by consumers for new product experiences. These changes result in a multitude of constantly changing market niches waiting to be filled. Market niches include local as well as regional ethnic demands, seasonal niches, sector demands (e.g. tourism), and location niches.

- Identify and develop production systems for new plant and animal products that have potential for market niches.

- Determine market niche opportunities for increases sales and use of plants and animals produced in the tropics.

- Explore new approaches to agroforestry which allow the simultaneous production of new food and fiber crops on tropical soils while minimizing soil erosion.          Back to Top

Goal 5    Expanding Agricultural Linkages
Expand tropical and subtropical agriculture's linkages to related industries and economic sectors.

Tourism and recreation, including agroecotourism, are increasingly dominant sources of income in the economies of both the Caribbean and Pacific Basins. Tourism, including its integration with agriculture in the form of agroecotourism, offers significant opportunities for the development of market niches based on new food and nutrition experiences for the tourist consumer and new educational experience by exposure to various agricultural production systems.

- Identify and characterize the market niches and opportunities for the Caribbean and Pacific Basins' tourism industries such as cruise lines, airlines, restaurants and hotels, and develop supply and marketing strategies for delivering high quality products on a timely and sustainable basis.

- Formulate policies on developing and maintaining the natural resource base to support various outdoor recreation activities such as nature trails, parks, gardens and golf courses.

- Define, develop and support the use of agricultural production systems and related natural resources for agroecotourism, e.g. the use of producing farms and forests for tourism by those interested in visiting and understanding tropical and subtropical ecosystems.

- Develop and market new products specifically derived from and linked to the culture and environment of the islands and directed to the tourist as a consumer.

Goal 6   Decision Support Systems
Develop and deliver user friendly decision support packages to help client needs.    

The complexity of today's society requires broad-based decision information in order to function competitively and within the framework of environmental and sustainable parameters. Decision information and tools are required by producers, processors, marketers, policy makers, elected officials, etc. Information must be packaged so that it is easily accessible, and is integrated and incorporated into valid decisions.

- Improve the efficiency and economic returns of agriculture systems through precision farming.

- Provide integrated information to protect the natural resource base while improving productivity in tropical agroecosystems.

- Assist decision makers to implement the best management practices for economic utilization of land, labor and capital.          Back to Top

Goal 7   Non-indigenous Pests and Diseases
Develop appropriate strategies and tactics to stem the influx of exotic diseases, insects and weeds and to control and/or eliminate extant non-indigenous species and diseases.

With the growing threat form foot-and-mouth disease, Formosa termites, fire ants and a host of other potentially devastating invasions, we must move aggressively to protect the US against the growing environmental and economic threat of non-indigenous plants, animals, insects and microbes, either presently in the US or threatening to enter. Enhancement of research and education programs for interdiction, eradication and suppression of exotic species in a manner that conserves the natural environment is urgently needed.

- Develop a data base of non-indigenous organisms that pose a potential threat.

- Develop the expertise to identify non-indigenous organisms quickly and accurately.

- Improve risk-management protocols including the determination of likeliest invaders and potential economic and ecological impacts.

- Develop biological, chemical, genetic and physical control mechanisms for the effective, economical and sustainable eradiction/suppresion of non-indigenous species.

Goal 8   Nutrition and Health
To enhance the linkages of the agriculture and food system with nutrition, health, and socio-economic status of the people in the tropical and sub-tropical regions.

Obesity, diabetes and other adverse health conditions are prevalent among the population in the tropical and sub-tropical regions. These problems if not ameliorated will bear a great cost to the US health system, communities and society. Prevention and treatment taken into account the unique context of tropical agriculture, local foods, and lifestyle offer the necessary and sufficient approaches to achieving our agricultural and economic objectives. Strategies for achieving healthy living in urban and rural communities may vary in tropical and sub-tropical regions form the temperate counterparts. Differing foods, physical and climatic surroundings, and culture create both barriers and offer opportunities to developing innovative approaches to achieving healthy and productive citizenry.

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