Tag Archives: college of agriculture

TSU receives $1M federal grant to lead development of national platform for remote high school learners

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University has received a $1 million federal grant to lead development of a national platform that allows high school agricultural courses to be taught remotely because of the pandemic. 

Dr. John Ricketts

The two-year grant and work, which will target underserved communities, are supported by the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative/Education and Workforce Development Program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture/National Institute of Food and Agriculture. 

Officials in TSU’s College of Agriculture say current resources being used for remote learning because of COVID-19 do not include the critical STEM topics of food and agriculture. But they plan to change that by helping to develop eight standards-based courses in agriculture, food and natural resources for high school students needing online/digital learning options. 

The project will also establish dual credit options for completers of the courses through a university or college-level faculty-course review and sharing platform.

Dr. John Ricketts, professor of agricultural education at TSU, is leading a team of content experts from the university, as well as individuals from several other institutions, including Auburn University, Mississippi State University, and the University of Georgia. 

Dr. Chandra Reddy

“Dr. Ricketts has put together an expert team that will address the concerns of teachers, students, and parents everywhere and help students complete their high school education and progress to colleges in a timely manner,” says Dr. Chandra Reddy, dean of TSU’s College of Agriculture. 

Ricketts will recruit the high school teachers who will work with instructional designers and micro-adaptive course developers to roll out the courses. Faculty mentors will assist with content contribution and vet the courses for use at the college level, ensuring they can help students achieve academically at the high school and college level. The eight courses will be loaded onto a national course sharing platform so that students can use them at any institution where agreements have been reached to use the platform, according to officials. 

“The courses to be developed will help high school students, who have been sent home because of the coronavirus, to graduate on time,” says Ricketts. “The expert vetting of courses developed for dual enrollment will help those same students stay on track in college.”

TSU Senior Waymon McNeal

Dr. Tom Byl, a TSU Ag professor, is on Ricketts’ team. He says he’s pleased the project is aimed at underserved communities because less than 2 percent of current natural-resource scientists are African American. 

“I think TSU is well suited to lead the effort and address this lack of diversity in STEM disciplines,” says Byl, who is also a research scientist with the US Geological Survey.  “I am proud to be part of that effort and look forward to working with this exceptional team of educators, leaders and scientists.”

TSU senior Waymon McNeal, an Ag major with a concentration in environmental sciences, says he wishes such courses were available when he was in high school. 

“I believe the platform will have a positive impact on those participating,” says McNeal, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. “I also think it’s a great way to recruit students” to TSU. 

TSU Senior Kalie Ellis

Senior Kalie Ellis of Ashland City, Tennessee, agrees. She’s also majoring in Ag at TSU, with a concentration in education. 

“Think about all the high school students who don’t know about TSU,” says Ellis. “This platform allows them to see that TSU has an amazing Ag program. And since they’re already taking high school Ag courses, and have a relationship with TSU professors, then why not go there.”

To learn more about TSU’s College of Agriculture, visit http://www.tnstate.edu/agriculture/

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 39 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

TSU graduate beats the odds, proves that determination is key to success

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Wanya Smith will be honored virtually along with hundreds of graduates at Tennessee State University’s fall commencement on Saturday. But when he envisions himself actually walking across the stage to get his undergraduate degree, following closely behind are his children, Noah, 3 and Gabrielle, 3.  

Wanya Smith wants to be a school resource management director to help struggling families. (Submitted Photo)

Smith fathered the two children during his sophomore year at TSU. For some, the responsibility of actively caring for two children and balancing that with schoolwork might be too much. But not Smith. The sixth of 10 children, he had come to college determined to earn a degree – the first in his family to achieve that feat – and nothing was going to stop him.   

It hasn’t. On Nov. 28, Smith will be among more than 700 students who will receive undergraduate and graduate degrees. The 24-year-old is graduating with honors with a Bachelor of Science degree in Family and Consumer Sciences, with a concentration in Child Development and Family Studies.  

“I am actually split between being happy and feeling like, ‘It’s about time,’” says Smith, when asked about his excitement of graduating in spite of the struggles he faced during his matriculation.   

“I have been struggling with being excited for the last couple of months knowing that graduation is approaching, because it’s taken me much longer than what it was supposed to. I do know it is a big accomplishment knowing where I am coming from, where nine times out of 10 a regular person wouldn’t be where I am, with all the adversities.” 

Making it through college with mounting responsibilities of childcare for two toddlers, maintaining an off-campus apartment and schoolwork, amounted to a huge struggle that resulted in him staying longer in college, says Smith. To make it, he at times worked two full-time jobs, seven days a week overnight.   

Noah Smith helps daddy put on his graduation cap before the big ceremony. (Submitted Photo)

“I had to prepare for the kids coming and so I had to save up, and pay for my apartment, but I was not going to drop out,” says Smith. “After the children were born, I kept up having two jobs. I worked during the day at Dominos and then at night I worked as a valet downtown on Broadway. Of course, my grades started falling, I lost the only two scholarships I had, I changed major and that put me behind, but I was determined not to drop out,” says Smith, of Memphis, Tennessee.   

He says the thought of caring for two kids at such a young age did not seem so overwhelming, drawing from his experience of caring for four younger siblings, while growing up at home. Additionally, he says he surrounded himself with very caring mentors at TSU who motivated him.   

“I was mentally prepared,” he says. “I had to push on no matter the difficult days. The thought of my own two children and their future, and younger siblings looking up to me drove me to keep going and not give up or drop out.”  

Dr. Margaret E. Machara, professor of child development and family studies, who not only taught Smith, but was aware of his situation, calls the young man “an engaged student and an incredible individual.”  

“Wanya hasn’t had an easy road to achieve his degree, but even with his challenges, he’s progressed through the requirements in a determined manner,” says Machara. “He’s a proud father, who not only is making a difference in his childrens’ lives, but also looks for ways to improve conditions in the wider society. With his easy manner and mature sense of responsibility, Wanya will definitely make TSU proud.”  

George Davis, a TSU graduate and a mentor, met Smith when he (Smith) showed interest in joining Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. He describes Smith as “a resilient person.” 

“Wanya has the ability to adapt to his surrounding very quickly and very easily,” says Davis, who earned graduate and undergraduate degrees at TSU. “I really think that when Wanya encounters what others consider impossibility, he sees possibility. He always puts 100 percent in everything that he does. He is a resilient young man who can withstand a lot.” 

Smith says co-parenting is vitally important to him, and that he is actively involved in caring for his little boy and girl. For a career, Smith wants to become a school resource management director, to work exclusively with struggling families with young children, to help them get the resources they need.   

Amid his hectic college career, Smith also remained active in extracurricularactivities. Besides his fraternity, he is also a member of Hypnotize Dance Troupe, and Black Incorporated. He also helped establish Find Out Dance Troupe at TSU during his sophomore year. 

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State UniversityFounded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 39 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

TSU receives $6M federal grant to lead global research on beetle that attacks trees

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University has received a $6 million federal grant to lead a nationwide team of researchers in the development of new tools to manage a woodboring beetle that attacks trees. The grant’s directors in TSU’s College of Agriculture say the research could have a global impact.

Dr. Karla Addesso

The funds were awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture-National Institute of Food and Agriculture and will focus on the flatheaded borer, or Flatheaded Borer Management in Specialty Crops.

“These borers cause serious damage to the nursery industry, and sometimes a single borer can kill or severely weaken a small tree,” says Dr. Chandra Reddy, dean of TSU’s College of Agriculture. “Researchers will develop new tools for managing woodborers that attack trees in nursery, landscape, nut and fruit orchard systems. I am delighted and proud of our team that is leading this national effort.”

Dr. Jason Oliver

Karla Addesso, associate professor of entomology, is the project’s director. Entomology Professor Jason Oliver is co-director. Both are in the Department of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at TSU’s Otis L. Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.   

Altogether, Drs. Addesso and Oliver will lead 24 researchers, including three more from TSU: Drs. Fulya Baysal-Gurel, Anthony Witcher and Prithviraj Lakkakula. The others are from the University of Tennessee, Rutgers University, North Carolina State University, Clemson University, University of Georgia, USDA-ARS-Byron, University of Florida, Texas A&M, University of California and Oregon State University.

Besides Tennessee, researchers say the flatheaded borer is becoming a problem in places like Florida, California, Oregon and Texas. And with the use of the grant, they’re hoping to confirm their pest status in other states, like North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama.

Dr. Chandra Reddy, dean of the College of Agriculture

“This beetle attacks trees everywhere,” says Addesso. “Current climate issues are causing them to be more problematic.”

Oliver says the flatheaded borer genus Chrysobothris also occurs on other continents in the world, “so project outcomes that improve management of Chrysobothis species in North America could have implications for management in other parts of the world.”

Researchers say some of their objectives with the four-year grant include: cost benefit assessments of flatheaded borer management strategies and risk analysis to guide producers in decision-making; identifying factors that make trees susceptible to attack; and evaluation of new insecticides that have recently entered the market to fight flatheaded borers.

TSU grad student Axel Gonzalez

“More environmentally friendly biological options like entomopathogenic nematodes have not been investigated at all with this borer group, and that is one aspect of this project,” says Oliver.

Additionally, researchers say the project will provide training to several graduate students, which will prepare them to either pursue further advanced degrees or to work in the field of entomology. The Entomological Society of America presently has about 5,000 members. 

One of those graduate students is Alex Gonzalez, who is currently pursuing a master’s at TSU in agricultural sciences, with a focus on entomology. However, the recent grant award has enticed him to pursue a Ph.D. and continue his studies in entomology, particularly on woodborers like the flathead.  

Flatheaded borer

“I can work long-term studying these insects,” says Gonzalez, who is originally from Honduras. “It’s an honor to have this research at TSU. We will have data that will be beneficial to the whole agricultural section.”

To learn more about TSU’s College of Agriculture, visit http://www.tnstate.edu/agriculture/.

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 39 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

College of Agriculture remembers students Judy Stanley and Vybhav Gopisetty

By Joan Kite

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – In a solemn ceremony laden with deep emotion, Tennessee State University’s College of Agriculture recently remembered two of its graduate students who were killed in a hit-and-run accident on Thanksgiving night.

Bandana Bhusal and Bimala Acharya share memories about their roommate Judy Stanley who they said was like a sister to them. (Photo by Joan Kite)

Judy Stanley, 23, and Vybhav Gopisetty, 26, were pursuing food science degrees: Stanley a master’s, and Gopisetty a doctorate

About 150 people, including members from the Nashville Indian Community, the Indian Consulate, and St. Vincent de Paul Church, where Stanley was a member, attended the ceremony at TSU on Dec. 7 to show their support and share memories of the students.

“I’m going to miss him a lot,” said Gopisetty’s roommate, Sharath Julankanti. “He published four papers in a row as a master’s student. He was always busy.”

The ceremony allowed students to share their sorrow and happy memories in an event that was wrought with emotion.

“We never imagined that two big personalities would leave the world so soon,” said Stanley’s roommate, Bandana Bhusal. “May your beautiful souls rest in peace.”

Research technician and “lab mom” Yvonne Miles spoke of how Gopisetty and Stanley brought joy to the lab and how deeply felt their loss is.

“Our lab is a family,” said Miles.

“When we lose a student, a family member, it breaks our hearts,” added Rajesh Narayana Das, a member of the Nashville Indian Community.

After a meal of Indian food and a slide show presentation with photos of Gopisetty’s and Stanley’s lives in India and the United States, the students’ teachers talked about them.

“You will live in our hearts forever,” said Dr. Ankit Patras, a mentor to both Gopisetty and Stanley.

A GoFundMe account quickly raised more than $50,000 to send the students’ bodies back to India, where they were from, and assist their families.

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

Ag researchers address recalls, food safety at holidays

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University researchers in the College of Agriculture have some pertinent food safety information for consumers amid recent recalls and the bustling holiday season.

Last month, there was a recall of romaine lettuce after a multistate outbreak of E. coli infections were linked to the lettuce, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There was a similar ground beef recall in June.

Dr. Agnes Kilonzo-Nthenge

Dr. Agnes Kilonzo-Nthenge is an associate research professor in the College of Ag’s Department of Human Sciences at TSU. She says whenever there’s a recall, consumers should take them seriously.

“It is important for consumers to listen to the news and be aware of food recalls,” says Kilonzo-Nthenge. “Some of the recalled products may be in our homes.”

In the last year, TSU’s College of Agriculture has received more than a million dollars for food safety research.

Kilonzo-Nthenge is the principal investigator for a $450,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to pursue an integrated approach to mitigate antimicrobial resistance in cattle and poultry, and help establish stewardship programs for small and medium-sized ranchers.

“Consumers are educated on safe handling practices at home and our farmers are trained on good agricultural practices that prevent or reduce meats and fresh produce contamination with pathogenic bacteria that might be resistant to antibiotics,” says Kilonzo-Nthenge.

Dr. Ankit Patras, a research assistant professor of agricultural science, also recently received two grants totaling more than $650,000 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Trojan Technologies of Canada, and California-based Aquafine Corporation. The grants are funding research to make food safer by eliminating harmful viruses and bacterial endospores in juices and other beverages.

Dr. Ankit Patras

“An important aspect of the study is to create science-based knowledge and bridge existing knowledge gaps by assessing the sensitivity of target foodborne viruses and spores to this treatment,” says Patras, the principal investigator. “We want to identify markers of oxidative stress, which can be correlated to microbial inactivation.”

This holiday season, TSU researchers say there are some simple ways to avoid foodborne illnesses. They include:

  • Wash hands and surfaces after handling raw meats.
  • Keep raw meat and poultry apart from freh produce and foods.
  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, then lower temperature to 350 F when putting turkey into the oven. Cook for at least 2 hours and 30 minutes. Turkey is done when it registers a minimum of 165 F in the thickest part of the thigh.
  • Hot or cold food should not be left out for more than two hours. Bacteria grow rapidly in the range of temperatures between 40 F and 140 F, doubling in as little as 20 minutes.
  • Hot foods should be kept at a temperature of at least 140 F.
  • Cold foods, such as chicken salad or potato salad, should be kept cold, at or below 40 F.

To learn more about TSU’s College of Agriculture, visit http://www.tnstate.edu/agriculture/.

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.


Tennessee State University Ag Professor Receives $650,000 in Grants for Food Safety and Disease Prevention Research

By JOAN KITE

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) — Tennessee State University professor Dr. Ankit Patras has received two grants totaling $650,000 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Trojan Technologies of Canada, and California-based Aquafine Corporation. The grants will fund research to make food safer by eliminating harmful viruses and bacterial endospores in juices and other beverages.

Dr. Ankit Patras

In the NIFA grant, Patras, as principal investigator, and his research team at TSU, including Dr. Agnes Kilonzo-Nthenge and Dr. John Rickettes, are collaborating with researchers at the University of Tennessee, and the Institute of Food Safety and Health at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Together, Patras and his fellow researchers will study the effect of highly energetic photons at 253.7 nm wavelength for the inactivation of viral particles, bacterial spores, and mycotoxins.

Dr. Chandra Reddy, dean of the College of Agriculture, said TSU is glad to partner with USDA and private industry in a research project that is aimed to make food safe for consumers without worrying about bacterial or viral contamination and illnesses.

“Dr. Patras is one of the national leaders in this area of research and he and his team are exploring some novel ways to contain or eliminate bacteria and viruses in foods through these grants,” Reddy said. “As our new Food Science building comes online in a year or so, we will intensify the food science research at TSU.”

Dr. Ankit Patras demonstrates the thin film pilot UV system, a novel pasteurization technology for inactivating viruses and bacterial endospores in liquid foods. Research Fellow Dr. Brahmiah Pendyala looks on. (Photo by Emmanuel Freeman, TSU Media Relations)

According to Patras, who is research assistant professor of agricultural science, the ultimate goal of this project is to develop new and improved non-thermal technologies to inactivate viruses and bacterial endospores. He said one of the unique aspects of the project is the use of novel approaches for ensuring uniform UV exposure to bacterial and viral particles in fluids, without any arbitrary fluence rate distribution and uncertainty in the delivered UV fluence within the UV systems.

“Another important aspect of the study is to create science-based knowledge and bridge existing knowledge gaps by assessing the sensitivity of target foodborne viruses and spores to this treatment,” Patras said. “We want to identify markers of oxidative stress, which can be correlated to microbial inactivation.”

Madison Purifoy, a graduating senior participating in a science summer program for exceptional high school seniors, explains her findings in an experiment where she tested e coli in synthetic fluid using UV radiation to see if it will grow or create mutations. Purifoy is from Plano West Senior High School in Plano, Texas. (Photo by Emmanuel Freeman, TSU Media Relations)

The team will develop chemical and biological sensors (biodosimeters) to quantify the UV dose delivered to pathogenic targets ensuring accurate dose delivery. The overall integrated approach will generate fundamental knowledge on the inactivation of viruses and bacterial spores on bench and commercial UV systems. Members of federal agencies including USDA-ARS, US-FDA, and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada are on the advisory board. Patras’s grant is one of the few awarded by the AFRI Foundation and Applied Science Program in the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Among Patras’ team at TSU is Taylor Ribeiro, a third-year Ph.D. student in biological sciences, who is working on the inactivation of bacterial in blue berry-flavored functional beverage. She said it feels good to be working with something that’s in the forefront of technology because “current pasteurization methods are starting to fail us.”

Some members of Dr. Patras’ research team in the Meats Processing Lab at TSU (Photo by Emmanuel Freeman, TSU Media Relations)

“We are starting to see outbreaks left and right. So, to be at the forefront of something that is going to be global pretty soon is a big deal for me,” said Ribeiro, who is from Chesapeake, Virginia. “I am enjoying it. I enjoy working with Dr. Petras and the rest of the team.”

In the second grant, Patras and Co-PI Dr. Hongwei Si will evaluate the cytotoxicity of irradiated liquid foods. Cytotoxicity of irradiated liquid foods must be evaluated to ensure the novel food processing techniques do not produce cytotoxic chemical compounds.

UV photons can break chemical bonds and could result in modifying compounds in foods. UV disinfection itself is the result of forming dimers (bonds) between adjacent pyrimidines in the nucleic acids of bacteria and viruses. The team aims to evaluate the cytotoxicity against normal colon, blood cells and study the protein expression of these cells. Experiments will be conducted mimicking the human gastric system.

For more information on TSU’s College Agriculture, go to http://www.tnstate.edu/agriculture/

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

Ag professor receives close to $1M to study crops’ adaptation to climate change

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – A Tennessee State University agriculture professor has received close to a million dollars to conduct research that will study how crops adapt to climate change.

Dr. Jianwei Li received the $999,429 from the National Science Foundation. It will be used to study the effects of high temperatures on microbiome, or the combined genetic material of microorganisms in a particular environment, in cropland soils in Middle Tennessee.

TSU Assistant Professor Dr. Jianwei Li (from right) is pictured with his climate change lab team Visiting Scholar Jianjun Duan, doctoral student Siyang Jian, and master’s student Madhav Parajuli. (Photo by Joan Kite, College of Agriculture)

Li said there is very little data in this area, and the consequential release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which scientists say is one of the main greenhouse gases causing global warming.

“We want to increase soil fertility, productivity, and potentially reduce the carbon dioxide, greenhouse emission,” said Li of the research, which will help scientists better determine how much carbon dioxide is being emitted.

Earth’s global surface temperature last year was the fourth warmest since 1880, according to independent analyses by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Scientists say atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide are at the highest levels ever recorded.

Dr. Chandra Reddy, dean of TSU’s College of Agriculture, said the grant is “very timely.”

“The climate change is there, whether politically some of us believe it or not,” Reddy said. “It is a reality.”

Li will work on the project with co-principal investigators TSU professor Dr. Dafeng Hui, TSU associate professor Dr. Jason P. de Koff, and University of California, Irvine professor Dr. Steven D. Allison.

This fall, TSU scientists will prepare a research plot to grow the biofuel crop switch grass at the Agricultural Research and Education Center. Using a soil gas flux system, the plot will be kept heated even through winter, and soil and gas samples will be routinely collected in high frequency.

The grant also seeks to specifically train young minority students in global environmental change issues, including climate change. Each year, an undergraduate student will be selected to receive formal training for two months at the University of California, Irvine, where the student will acquire experience in molecular analysis and microbial trait-based modeling.

Li envisions the grant as seed money to help build a permanent experimental infrastructure and develop an interpretive display on climate change to educate farmers and school children throughout Tennessee.

To learn more about TSU’s College of Agriculture, visit http://www.tnstate.edu/agriculture/.

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

Ag officials hope tariffs not long term

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University agriculture officials say they hope President Trump’s tariffs on Chinese goods is not long term.

Last month, Trump announced that tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods would go up from 10 percent to 25 percent. The U.S. has also begun investigating whether $300 billion of other Chinese goods could be subject to tariffs.

And last week, the president announced a 5 percent tariff on all Mexican goods, starting June 10, if that country does not substantially halt illegal immigration across the border.

Dr. Chandra Reddy, dean of TSU’s College of Agriculture, said the tariffs are affecting producers, and that federal government subsidies may not be enough to help farmers who have to take out loans to make ends meet.

Trump unveiled a $16 billion bailout last month for farmers hurt by the trade war.

“It’s very unfortunate that agriculture gets caught in this crossfire,” Reddy said. “It’s not good for us, not good for the rest of the world. Hopefully this is short term.”

Finis Stribling is an area extension specialist and coordinator of the New Farmer Academy at TSU. He and a friend have a farm that grows cotton, corn, soybeans and rice, and they’re feeling the effect of the tariffs.

However, Stribling noted that vegetable farmers are not really affected right now, because they can set their prices.

“It just depends on what part of agriculture you’re in, whether it’s the vegetable market, the livestock market, or the grain market,” he said.

Farm groups have warned the White House against proposed new tariffs on Mexico, saying they could trigger retaliatory trade actions from Mexico and again impede exports to one of the top markets for U.S. crops and meat.  

The National Pork Producers Council, a trade group, estimated that tariffs over the last year from Mexico and China so far have cost U.S. pork producers $2.5 billion.

Despite the trade war, there is still interest in farming. Currently, more than 50 prospective farmers from across the country are participating in TSU’s New Farmer Academy, which covers topics like hydroponics and irrigation, farm equipment selection, and organic production.

Brian MacDonald travels from Orange County, California, to attend the seven-month class that meets the third Monday in each month. He said he’s aware of the effect tariffs are having on farmers, but he’s not letting it discourage him from becoming an organic farmer.

“I have this dream of owning a farm,” said MacDonald, who is a retired president and chief financial officer for an electronics company. “It’s a dream I’ve had for the last couple of years.”

For more information about TSU’s College of Agriculture, visit http://www.tnstate.edu/agriculture/.

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

College of agriculture’s New Farmer Academy attracts participants from across the country

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – More than 50 prospective farmers from across the country are participating in Tennessee State University’s New Farmer Academy

The seven-month program was started by the university’s College of Agriculture in 2014. Participants meet the third Monday in each month from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and cover topics that include agricultural leadership and regulations, financial planning, hydroponics and irrigation, organic production, farm equipment selection, soil fertility and suitability, and value-added agribusiness.

Finis Stribling, TSU area extension specialist and Academy coordinator, speaks to participants. (Photo by Michael McLendon, TSU Media Relations)

The Academy, which also offers classes in West and East Tennessee, is the only one of its kind in Tennessee. Its first year, the program had nine participants. This year, 52 are enrolled in the Middle Tennessee class, which will finish in September.

“Every year we’ve been growing and growing,” said Finis Stribling, TSU area extension specialist and coordinator of the New Farmer Academy. “There’s a lot of interest.”

Brian MacDonald traveled from Orange County, California, to attend this year’s Academy. After visiting Tennessee several years ago, he decided it is a place where he would like to retire, and do some organic farming.

“I have this dream of owning a farm,” said MacDonald, who is a retired president and chief financial officer for an electronics company. “It’s a dream I’ve had for the last couple of years.”

With the help of the Academy, MacDonald plans to make that dream a reality when he permanently moves to Tennessee, as early as next year.

Academy participant Ashley Brooks of Chicago is also hoping to start farming soon. She’s interested in growing hemp, and developing products from it, as well as using its oil for medical uses.    

“Hemp has been proven to help with different conditions, like pain,” said Brooks, a TSU alum who grew up in Nashville, Tennessee. “I have aging family members who have used the oil, and they say it relieves their pain tremendously.”

John Ferrell, TSU extension agent for Franklin County, Tennessee, talks to participants about irrigation. (Photo by Lucas Johnson, TSU Media Relations)

Tennessee State is among the nation’s leaders in hemp research. TSU’s College of Agriculture has hosted several hemp workshops, and has charged a team of scientists to develop hemp production practices for Tennessee. The research projects include developing hemp nutritional products for human consumption and studying the economic viability of hemp production. Currently, the university is growing and evaluating 10 varieties of hemp.

“TSU wants to be at the forefront of this new interest that’s cropping up across the country,” said Dr. Chandra Reddy, dean of the College of Agriculture. “If it’s ever approved for large scale use, we have some knowledge about it and can work with the farmers.”

For more information about TSU’s College of Agriculture, visit http://www.tnstate.edu/agriculture/.

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

Top TSU graduate Alexius Dingle ready to soar even higher

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Alexius Dingle graduated from Tennessee State University at the top of her class, but the agricultural sciences major has even loftier goals. 

“I’m going to grad school to pursue a Ph.D. in genetics,” said Dingle, who graduated on May 4 with a 4.0 GPA.

Alexius Dingle

She was one of more than 1,000 undergraduate and graduate students who received degrees in various disciplines in this year’s dual graduation ceremonies at T’SU.

Dingle was the first in her immediate family to attend college. She said she looked forward to seeing the expression on the face of her mother, who pretty much raised her by herself in the small town of Manning, South Carolina, about an hour from Columbia.

“She sacrificed so much,” said Dingle.

When she arrives at Texas A&M for her Ph.D. program, Dingle said she will be ready, mainly because of the preparation she has received at Tennessee State University, particularly the College of Agriculture.

“One thing that the College of Ag has been very good with doing is making sure that their students are exposed to research, and it’s paid research,” said Dingle, whose concentration is in biotechnology. “It’s a way for you to get exposure, put something on your resume, so you don’t leave without experience. And it also helps you financially.”

Ag professor De’Etra Young, a mentor to Dingle, said she was impressed with her maturity and assertiveness. 

“She set her goals, was extremely focused, and sought out any opportunity that was given to her,” said Young. “Her success has paid off. She will be attending Texas A&M, and she will be going from a bachelor’s to a Ph.D. program.”

Dingle said she encourages her peers, as well as incoming freshmen, to take advantage of opportunities that are available.

“Network, talk to your advisors,” she said. “They have opportunities to help you that you may not know about.”

TSU has received a million dollars from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to bolster undergraduate students’ interest in agriculture, as well as science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM.

In addition to scholarships, TSU officials said the funds will aid students’ professional development by allowing them to “travel to different professional conferences and meetings to gain exposure” to the latest research.  

Earlier this year, TSU President Glenda Glover surprised 20 students who visited the university with scholarship offers if they planned to major in a STEM course and have a good GPA.

To learn more about TSU’s College of Agriculture, visit http://www.tnstate.edu/agriculture/.

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.