Illinois specialty crop programs receive $520K in grants

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The Illinois Department of Agriculture is awarding more than $520,000 to projects aimed at strengthening the state’s specialty crop industry, from horseradish to pumpkins and gourds.

Agriculture Director Raymond Poe says in a news release that the money comes from the federal Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.

Among those receiving grants is a professor at Southern Illinois University who’s developing new horseradish varieties. A University of Illinois professor will use grant money to study ways to combat mildew on gourds.

Illinois is the nation’s largest producer of horseradish and pumpkins, and has a flourishing grape and wine market. A recent Census of Agriculture found more than 106,000 acres are used to grow specialty crops in Illinois, with sales totaling almost $470 million annually.