Category Archives: College of Agriculture

TSU Hosts Record-Breaking 1890 ARD Research Symposium

By Charlie Morrison

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – The Tennessee State University College of Agriculture served as the host for the 21st Association of 1890 Research Directors Biennial Research Symposium (ARD), held in April at the Gaylord Opryland Convention Center in Nashville. As the immediate past Chair and steering committee member of the symposium, the College of Agriculture Dean, Dr. Chandra Reddy, was instrumental in getting the event to be held here in Nashville, and participants did not disappoint. The event was by all accounts the biggest, best-attended symposium in the organization’s nearly 50-year history.

TSU College of Agriculture faculty and staff during the 21st Association of 1890 Research Directors Biennial Research Symposium at the Gaylord Opryland Convention Center.

More than 1,500 faculty researchers, college administrators, students, and staff from each of the 19 1890 land-grant HBCUs attended this year’s symposium. The premier event brought together agriculture-focused researchers from across the 1890 land-grant university system. In addition to showcasing the talents and achievements of the 1890 community, the symposium offered attendees interactive opportunities to share knowledge and build networks for expanded research collaborations.

Dean Chandra Reddy was buoyant about the College’s performance at the ARD. For Dr. Reddy, a successful showing at the symposium took everyone from the College’s participation, involvement, and engagement. “I am extremely happy that the event went so well. Our students and faculty succeeded in all the sessions and competitions, with outstanding preparation and engagement,” said Dr. Reddy. “So many of the attendees visited the College and were thoroughly impressed with our research labs and the cutting-edge research being conducted by our faculty, graduate students, and even undergraduate students.” TSU Agriculture students, faculty, and post-doctoral students contributed nearly 130 research posters and 300 oral research presentations that were put forth at the symposium, many of which received awards and cash prizes due to their research.

Kerrington Howard was one of three TSU College of Agriculture students who had the opportunity to address hundreds during the four-day symposium.

A large contingent of the TSU family, including President Glenda Glover, took part in the conference, presenting research, judging competitions, and fostering networking connections. “TSU recognizes the importance of agriculture, I recognize the importance of agriculture having grown up on a farm in Memphis, so I know and love the industry,” said Dr. Glover as she addressed the conference during its opening session. “Here we’re doing more to move agriculture forward on our campus in Nashville. Thank you for being here today and for such a meaningful engagement. Continue to perpetuate the legacy of research excellence.”

The theme of this year’s symposium was “Climate, Health, and Cultivating the Next Generation of Agricultural Leaders: Creating Solutions in Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resources.” TSU students had the opportunity to present their research both orally and through poster competitions. The students networked with like-minded scientists from across the 1890 community and engaged in important topics such as climate science research, navigating grantsmanship, and outside funding activities, and presenting their research effectively.

During the four-day symposium, three TSU College of Agriculture students had the opportunity to address a venue in Opry that seated more than 1,500 participants. The students were TSU junior Kennedy Bentley, along with seniors Dominque Smith and Kerrington Howard. “It felt great to address the symposium because …. I wanted to show everyone that we’re doing something here (at TSUAg), I wanted to show the symposium what they were investing in,” said Howard, a dean’s list scholar. “And they need to see that we’re here doing the work so they keep supporting us.”

Dr. De’Etra Young won an inaugural McKinley Mayes Mentoring Award for demonstrating an outstanding commitment to mentoring both students and early faculty members.

During the event, Agriculture Professor and Associate Dean of Academics and Land-grant Programs Dr. De’Etra Young won an inaugural McKinley Mayes Mentoring Award. The award was created to recognize an administrator who has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to mentoring both students and early faculty members.

At the symposium, graduate students showcased their research prowess, particularly excelling in oral presentations. The College of Agriculture dominated the food safety, nutrition, and health category, with Amritpal Singh securing first place, followed by Aakash Sharma in second, and Pallavi Rathore in third. In other categories, such as plant health and production, Divya Jain claimed the top spot, while Sudip Poudel secured second. Additionally, Jazmine Norwood stood out in the family, youth, community, and economic development category, winning the competitive poster presentation.

Aaliyah Cotton with an award for her oral presentation on renewable energy and natural resources.

Aaliyah Cotton represented the undergraduate student body with distinction, earning second place for her oral presentation on renewable energy, natural resources, and the environment. Overall, the College of Agriculture students showcased exceptional talent and dedication across various fields of study at the symposium.

“It was a prideful moment for my team and I to have our peer institutions treating us as a model for their own institutions and leaders,” Dr. Reddy said. “And we heard that a lot at this year’s symposium.”

To learn more about the College of Agriculture, visit https://www.tnstate.edu/agriculture/.

College of Ag hosts USDA Forest Service HBCU research summit

By Alexis Clark, Charlie Morrison

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University’s College of Agriculture hosted the USDA Forest Service-Southern Research Station HBCU Research Summit earlier this week, commemorating 30 years of research, partnership, and collaboration among the USDA, Southern Research Station (SRS), and HBCUs engaged in agricultural research.

The 2024 SRS-HBCU Programs Summit welcomed USDA Undersecretary Homer Wilkes as a special guest. Wilkes’ participation provided additional opportunities for sharing partnering successes, exploring challenges and intersections, and fostering ongoing collaboration.

Held on campus in various College of Agriculture buildings, the event featured SRS Director Dr. Toral Patel-Weynand, presentations on the university’s history and its SRS partnership, and a panel discussion on future collaborations. Sessions throughout the day mapped out future interactions between research universities and their government counterparts at the USDA.

SRS Director Dr. Toral Patel-Weynand, left, and USDA Undersecretary Homer Wilkes at TSUs USDA Forest Service-Southern Research Station HBCU Research Summit

This marks the second consecutive year the College of Agriculture has hosted the summit in collaboration with SRS and the USDA, showcasing the institution’s commitment to fostering relationships with government agencies. Dr. De’Etra Young, Associate Dean of Academics and Land-grant Programs, highlighted the importance of collaborative partnerships during the event.

“We wanted to host the summit again this year because fostering collaborative partnerships with the Southern Research Station and other 1890 institutions is critical to our mission of bringing the best research opportunities to our talented student body,” Dr. Young said during the event.

“The end result of our work to collaborate with our industry partners is to improve the quantity and quality of the research avenues available to our student body and that’s always going to necessitate a close relationship with the USDA.”

USDA Undersecretary Homer Wilkes, an HBCU alumnus, expressed gratitude for TSU hosting the event.

“I’m very thankful for TSU for hosting this event,” Wilkes said. “It gives us an opportunity to have an exchange of information. If we say we want to be helpful, we need to know how can we be helpful. And that’s the type of dialogue we have with these deans and the university setting.”

Fellow representatives from other HBCUs participated in the panel discussion about industry partnerships, grant funding efforts, student recruitment and more during the summit event.

Wilkes was appointed to his position under the Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack by President Joe Biden in 2021.

Dr. Toral Patel-Weynand said SRS has more than 200 research, education, and outreach activities with HBCUs or 1890 land-grant schools since 2017. “My vision is to keep building on the solid foundation we’ve established over the past three decades, and to set the stage for even greater engagement and expansion to include more 1890 schools,” Patel-Weynand said.

“TSU and the other HBCUs can look forward to a continued commitment from SRS to work with faculty at each of the six universities to design a program to grow and enhance the relationship for mutual benefit while building capacity and developing scientists at the undergraduate and graduate level.”

Dr. Quincy Quick, TSU’s Associate Vice President of Research and Sponsored Programs, participated in the HBCU panel discussion alongside representatives from other HBCUs. They discussed industry partnerships, grant funding efforts, student recruitment and retention, and diversity at governmental organizations. Dr. Quick addressed the importance of diversity in thinking and research.

“We have diversity in that our mission is to train and develop African-American students, but what should not get lost in any discussion about diversity, and it gets lost, is that really what you’re talking about is diversity of thinking,” Quick said. “That’s what helps create, develop, and sustain partnerships, accepting that diversity.”

During the day-long summit, TSU hosted not only USDA and SRS but also representatives from Tuskegee University, Florida A&M University, Southern University, Alabama A&M University, and North Carolina A&T University. It serves as another demonstration of the university’s commitment to research and its pursuit of an ‘R1’ designation under the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Learning.

The summit event highlighted TSU’s dedication to advancing research collaboration not only with the USDA and SRS but also with fellow HBCUs.

About USDA Forest Service

The Forest Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, manages the nation’s 154 national forests and 20 national grasslands, encompassing 193 million acres of land.

College of Agriculture’s  De’Etra Young receives USDA National Teaching Award

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University is proud to announce that Dr. De’Etra Young, Associate Dean for Academics and Land-grant Programs, received the prestigious U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Teaching Award. The national award, presented by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and the USDA, recognizes excellence in agricultural sciences teaching and student engagement. Dr. Young is one of two recipients this year for the annual award and said she is honored for this recognition.

Dr. Manjit Misra, director of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture and Dr. Young.

“This recognition celebrates my dedication to education and symbolizes the rich legacy of Tennessee State University, an HBCU committed to preparing students for success,” Young said. 

“At TSU, we take pride in our mission to excel in teaching and learning, offering experiential learning opportunities and fostering professional development for our students. This award is a testament to the University and College of Agriculture’s commitment to innovation in the classroom.”

The annual award includes a $5,000 stipend for teaching enhancements at TSU. Young is recognized as a leader in undergraduate research that is driven by her passion for environmental science and urban forestry. She has been committed to motivating students, like junior Blake Wright, to have that same passion and drive.  The Dallas, TX native is studying agricultural sciences. 

Blake Wright

“Even when I started my freshman year, Dr. Young had helped me so much.” Wright said.

“I was able to get accepted for an 1890 farm bill scholarship, and she makes sure students are aware of leadership opportunities. She overcomes challenges, presents great opportunity, and this national recognition is long overdue.”

As a mentor, Young has created many aspiring researchers over time, who have also gained national recognition for their contributions, according to the APLU website. CheKenna Fletcher, stated that she wouldn’t be in the position as a first-year Ph.D. student in agricultural sciences without Young’s support.

“Her tireless commitment to guiding students through their academic journey and beyond is unmatched,” Fletcher said.

CheKenna Fletcher

“From crafting heartfelt recommendation letters to being a constant source of encouragement, she embodies selflessness like no other, proving that leadership leaves no room for personal rest but thrives in the success of others.”

Dr. Chandra Reddy, the dean of the College of Agriculture, said Young is very deserving of this award as she is a role model to many TSU students and faculty.

“Dr. Young is an exceptional teacher, mentor, and advisor,” Reddy said.

“Dr. Young’s passion to engage high school and undergraduate students in research makes our novel summer apprenticeship and dean’s scholar’s program so popular with participating students and their families. I congratulate her on behalf of my colleagues in the College for getting selected for this prestigious national teaching award.”

Young, who has been at TSU for ten years, has been awarded more than $30 million in funding as a principal investigator (PI) and Co-PI.

Dr. Young assisting college of Agriculture students during the fall semester.

 “We applaud the 2023 winners of the Excellence in College and University Teaching Awards for Food and Agricultural Sciences,” said Wendy Fink, Executive Director of the Academic Programs Section at APLU.

“Through their dedicated and focused passion in mentoring and instruction, they serve as inspirational leaders for their students and other faculty striving to serve their students better.”

Dr. Young received her bachelor’s degree in Urban Forestry at Southern University and A&M College, and a masters and a Ph.D both in forestry from Texas A&M University. Visit our website to find more information about TSU’s Agricultural Sciences program or majors.

TSU continues to revolutionize farming with 19th annual expo

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) –  For nearly two decades, Tennessee State University has provided vital resources to the State’s small farmers. One of the major resources is the TSU Small Farm Expo. The event is dedicated to supporting small-scale farming, along with providing sustainable practices and agricultural education.

Dr. Chandra Reddy, the dean of the college of agriculture expressed the university’s commitment to the event.

TSU Director of New Farmer Academy and Small Farms, Finis Stribling III

“This is the very purpose of why we exist,” Reddy said. “As a land-grant institution, we want to support the producers.” 

The event drew over 250 attendees, including more than 60 university students, and featured workshops, engagement speakers, and farmers.

Finis Stribling, III chaired this year’s Small Farm Expo and noted that one of those small farmers is Danielle Buyton. Buyton was recognized as the 2023 TSU New Small Farmer of the year and received $3,000 to support her farming efforts. 

“We started this expo about 19 years ago to showcase what TSU is doing in relation to small farms,” Stribling said.

Aria McElroy, a senior agricultural science major with a concentration in environmental science, was among the dozens of students who attended the expo.

Dr. Reddy trying a bitter melon beverage at one of the food crop tables during the Small Farm Expo at TSU.

“After I graduate in May, I would love to work with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and get a strong foundation of what conservation is like and how I can bring that to private and public land.”

Aria, an 1890 Farm Bill scholar, also highlighted the significance of seeing Black farmers and landowners.

“It’s really good for TSU to have this event. Just seeing black farm and landowners in this space is great.”

In addition to chairing the expo, Stribling is the director of the academy. He is also a third-generation farmer and established the academy to support beginner small farmers across the country.Stribling noted how the New Farmer Academy graduates play a pivotal role in expanding the small farming community to sustain production in our ecosystem.

During the Small Farmer recognition program, Danielle Buyton, was announced as the 2023 TSU New Small Farmer of the year and received $3,000 in total to support her farming efforts. 

“We are here to showcase research relevant to small farms across Tennessee,” he said.

Stribling added that Buyton is also a graduate of the TSU New Farmer Academy, the only academy of its kind in the State that has graduated over 530 farmers from across the country.  

Tennessee Agriculture Commissioner Charlie Hatcher was one of several state officials who attended the expo and praised the New Farmer Academy, reaffirming the importance of supporting small-scale farming and sustainable agriculture practices. 

“It’s one of the best training programs for new farmers and beginning farmers in the United States. It’s been so impactful,” Hatcher said.

Aria McElroy

“It’s one of the most worthwhile programs we need to get behind. It’s going to make a difference in the interests of people.”

Reggie Marshall is a small farmer working to have an impact and credits TSU for his success. Marshall is also one of the first graduates of the TSU New Farmer Academy established in 2014. As he walked and greeted others at the expo he reflected on the important work the TSU College of Agriculture is doing for small farmers across the state.  

“In order to make these small farms viable, we need programs like the New Farm Academy because it walks you through every phase of getting started,” he explained.

Sydney Wyche

The Expo featured speakers from local, state and federal levels, and provided workshops on topics such as urban agriculture, hemp research, organic agriculture, vertical gardening, bee keeping, food demonstrations, food crop production, and more.

TSU student, Sydney Wyche, a sophomore from Huntsville, echoed Aria’s sentiments regarding how beneficial the event was. Sydney attended the Expo to learn more about the agricultural companies and opportunities available.

“I am looking for internships and trying to find new connections,” Wyche said.

Dr. Emmanuel Omondi, Assistant Professor of Agronomy and Industrial Hemp Extension Specialist during the Small farm expo.

“I wanted to learn more about the agricultural companies. From the medicine you take to what you eat, agriculture is connected to everything.”

In addition to being a resource, the expo serves as a platform to bring small farmers together and as well as extension agencies from across the state.  

TSU’s College of Agriculture camp gives incoming freshmen valuable STEM exposure  

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – College lab classes should come easy for a group of incoming freshmen who recently attended Tennessee State University’s College of Agriculture Summer Enrichment Program. The 23 students, with different majors, conducted real-world scientific and cutting-edge research during the four-week program. Activities included several laboratory and field experiments. The last day culminated with a closing ceremony where the students presented their finished works as scientific papers.   

Jai’Da Le’Nae Seafous was one of four program participants awarded full scholarships to attend TSU. (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

Jai’Da Le’Nae Seafous, a senior from Summer Creek High School in Houston, expressed her excitement about attending TSU, saying that the program further fueled her passion for the university. Her research project focused on extracting fecal and different blood samples from goats to check for parasites. 

“The program most definitely made my decision much easier to major in animal science,” Seafous said. “The hands-on experience was so helpful.” 

Seafous was one of four program participants awarded full scholarships to attend TSU starting this fall. 

Another high school senior, Christopher Dewanye McKay Jr., from Ridgeway High School in Memphis, conducted research on genetics and DNA, stating that he discovered many things he didn’t previously know about plants. 

Christopher Dewanye McKay Jr., received insights in plant science during his research on genetics and DNA. (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

“When I got here, I really didn’t know much about plant science. I was just looking for something to do,” said McKay, who wants to major in computer science. “But I am glad I did. Now I have a whole different appreciation for agriculture.” 

Dr. Chanra Reddy, dean of the College of Agriculture, emphasized that the program, which has been held each summer for more than 10 years, provides students with exposure to different opportunities within the agricultural sector. He also highlighted the program’s success, with approximately 85 percent of participants choosing to continue their education at TSU. 

“We are very happy about the success rate of the program. This teaches them about the STEM opportunities in the college,” Reddy said. 

Dr. De’Etra Young, Program Coordinator, assists a group,p of students with their presentation at the closing ceremony. (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

Dr. De’Etra Young, program coordinator, explained that students had the chance to work on various subjects, ranging from food and animal science to genetics, forestry, GIS, precision agriculture, nutrition, and child development. 

 “We tried to expose the students to the whole offerings in the College of Agriculture,” said Young, who is associate dean for academics and Land-Grant programs. “This provides exposure but also gives us the opportunity to serve as a bridge to help them prepare for college.” 

A cross section of family members, faculty and staff attend the student presentation in the AITC on the main campus. (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

The Summer Enrichment Program was funded through a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The program accepts high school sophomores through seniors and incoming college freshmen from across the country. This summer’s participants were from Tennessee, Mississippi, New York, Texas and Georgia. 

For information on programs in the College of Agriculture, visit https://www.tnstate.edu/agriculture/

TSU’s SNAP-Ed program empowers community for healthy living

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Ramona Crawford of Nashville, is a 1978 TSU graduate who told the University that she recently started making her own organic juices at home to live a healthier, nutritious lifestyle. Now, along with her juices, Crawford will be creating new and easy recipes after receiving free produce and observing food demonstrations during TSU’s SNAP-Ed program F.R.E.S.H. Fair community event.

TSU alumnus Reggie Marshall hands TSU senior, Zahria Austin a mint beverage with ingredients picked from his local farm.

“A lot of people, when they get older, they need to eat healthy nutrients to have a long life style,” Crawford said. “I came because I wanted to sample the vegetables and the pinto bean salad. I liked it, and I will try to make it at home myself.”

Crawford was one of more than 60 community attendees for the first ever F.R.E.S.H. Fair to cultivate a healthier, more connected community.

On July 15, program hosts, vendors and volunteers arrived early to set up their abundance of produce, resources and cooking demonstrations. Tennessee State University dedicated the morning to continuing its commitment to fill the gap in its North Nashville community categorized as a grocery store desert.

Free produce was given out to community goers who attended the F.R.E.S.H event hosted by the SNAP-Ed program.

Hosted by the SNAP-Ed program, the event took place at Friendship Missionary Baptist church.

The event also brought awareness to the University’s efforts in fighting food insecurity and free available resources. Something that TSU senior, Zahria Austin, said she was grateful to be a part of. Austin, who is a family consumer science major, volunteered for the event. “I assisted making food demonstrations and teaching everyone the importance of nutritional snacks they can make,” Austin said. “It was a great turn out and a lot of people tried different samples.”

In addition to the recent event, Austin had been teaching nutritional classes to lower income residents and local homeless shelter residents.

“I wanted to spread the love and help out the community.”

SNAP-Ed program agent demonstrates how to make a quick and easy, affordable vegetable recipe.

One of the many demonstrations began with the art of making homemade hummus. A member of the SNAP-Ed program whipped together chickpeas, lemon juice, and an array of ingredients in a blender to show the crowd the simplicity of the process. 

They learned quick and easy, healthy recipes that could be made without cooking and were then given a bag full of ingredients to make the recipes at home. From hummus, to black bean dip to hearty vegetable salad, participants said they enjoyed the samples and demonstrations.

TSU alumnus Reggie Marshall, a farmer from West Tennessee, supported the event as one of the five vendors.

He provided bell peppers, 15 varieties of herbs, freshly made lemon zucchini bread and mint tea. All the ingredients were picked right from his own farm, Reggie Veggie Farm in Antioch. 

SNAP-Ed program agents demonstrate how to make homemade hummus during the community event.

“I’ve been given so much in life and this is a small token of appreciation and gratitude,” Marshall said about attending his alma maters event. He noted that he wanted to educate the community on different herbs to elevate meals rather than just using salt and sugar. “Try something new,” he told the participants.

“We become creatures of habit. Nothing taste as good as healthy feels.”

Through the ongoing efforts, program host continued to inspire individuals of all ages, proving that healthy eating was not only possible but also a joyful and enriching experience.

TSU SNAP-Ed Agent Angela Settles said the goal was to create and develop incentives for the community during the event with impact on parents, first-time parents, and children.

Director of community outreach Rita Fleming, left and SNAP-Ed Agent Angela Settles shows ingredients to the community during a food demonstrations at the F.R.E.S.H fair.

TSU Director of community outreach, Rita Fleming, said the event did just that.

“Today was an opportunity to meet people where they are and give them an idea of what we do for nutrition education,” Fleming said. “We made great connections today.”

ABOUT TSU F.R.E.S.H. Fair

The fair was presented through a collaborative effort by the University’s SNAP-Education and the Family Consumer Science Programs. 

The fair had five vendors present:

  1. Dr. Arvazena Clardy (Associate Professor of Horticulture and Extension Specialist/ TSU Community Garden)
  2. Mary B. Wakefield (TSU FCS Agent)
  3. The University of Tennessee College of Nursing
  4. Reggie Marshall(Reggie Veggie Farm)
  5. Health Hero Tennessee

TSU College of Agriculture adds high-demand Master of Science Program

By Dr. Alyssa Rockers

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University College of Agriculture will welcome the first students in a new Master of Science in Agribusiness and Leadership degree program in Fall 2023. The new program will allow students pursuing a master’s degree in agricultural business or agricultural leadership, education, and communications (ALEC) to take a program of study more specific to their needs and interests. TSU will offer this new degree both in person and online, with and without the thesis option.

PhD student Sunil Gurung at TSUs small farm expo.

“The new MS degree will broaden the scope of graduate degree offerings in the College and meet the tremendous market demand and student interest,” said Dr. Chandra Reddy, dean of TSU’s College of Agriculture.

According to Dean Reddy, Agribusiness is a popular undergraduate major at TSU and many other institutions, and the new program will align graduates with their career choices, which will benefit students in finding better employment opportunities.

“Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communication is very popular with those wanting to be leaders and communicators in the agricultural sector,” he said. “Many of our extension agents have been asking for such a graduate degree for a long time. The new degree is a more robust program and will be helpful to students seeking employment.”

Dr. Prabodh Illukpitiya, agricultural business professor in the College of Agriculture said the college has been anticipating this great opportunity as it will have a tremendous impact and benefit for the university.

“It’s a great collaboration between agribusiness and agricultural leadership, education, and communications,” Illukpitiya said.

 TSU alum Madison Lewis showcasing an Ag. Literacy presentation during her masters program.

“The program will benefit TSU by providing more opportunities to minority students and will enhance student retention and TSU’s reputation in agribusiness and ALEC programs.”

Agricultural education professor Dr. John C. Ricketts noted that in addition to creating workforce development opportunities, the program will specifically allow the university to offer agriculture teachers and extension agents an online program that’s respective of their needs. In addition to an experience for those who aren’t looking to become a bench scientist.

“It’s also going to provide content that meets their needs as educators,” Ricketts said.

“They will be able to take research and statistics courses that are meant for them as social scientists. Our students will be prepared to lead others and perform at top levels in business, education, government, nonprofit, and communication sectors,” he said.

To learn more about this new program and specifically the Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication focus, contact Dr. John Ricketts ([email protected]). If students are interested in Agribusiness Management, contact Dr. Probodh Illukpitiya ([email protected]). To apply for the program contact Dr. Bharat Pokharel ([email protected]), the department of Agriculture Director of Graduate Programs.

TSU College of Agriculture Awarded $18 million Grant Award from USDA

By Dr. Alyssa Rockers

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University’s College of Agriculture has been awarded an $18 million grant from the United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA). TSU’s award is a part of USDA NIFA’s NextGen grant program, a $262.5 million investment in higher education to create and sustain a more diverse workforce for the next generation of food, agriculture, natural resources, and human sciences professionals. Of the 33 awarded projects across 24 states, TSU is only one of five institutions awarded Tier 3 funding. This includes projects up to $20 million and at least three partnering institutions across two states.  

“This is game changer for Tennessee State and further enhances our stellar reputation as a premier land-grant institution, with one of the top Agriculture programs in the country,” said TSU President Glenda Glover.

“Our goal as an institution is to provide our students with a quality education that will position them to compete and have successful careers in the global marketplace. This amazing opportunity with USDA will allow us to continue to fulfill that goal due largely to the commitment and vision of Dean Chandra Reddy and Dr. John Ricketts, principal investigator for the grant, and their staff.”

 The program is funded by President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act. Dr. Chandra Reddy, TSU’s Dean of Agriculture, and Dr. John Ricketts were on hand for the official announcement in Washington.

“We are quite excited with this announcement today by USDA Secretary Vilsack that the TSU College of Agriculture will be receiving $18 million to cultivate the next generation of agricultural graduates,” said Dean Reddy. “We are one of the select few institutions that received this level of funding recognizing our longtime efforts in this area through many successful initiatives particularly the Dean’s Scholars Program.” 

“I congratulate Dr. Ricketts and the team for putting together a comprehensive proposal and we will deliver on our commitments.”

 TSU’s project entitled, “NEXTGENeration Inclusion Consortium for Building the Food, Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Human Sciences Pipeline (FANHP)” is led by Ricketts, who is a professor in the Department of Agricultural Sciences at TSU.

“This project will establish an inclusive consortium of institutions to build and sustain the future of the workforce in food, agriculture, natural resources, and human sciences,” said Ricketts.

“Through this project, TSU and our partners will be able to advance equity in this workforce for future generations.”

Scholarships and learning opportunities are crucial components of the grant. The project will allow TSU students to apply for full scholarships covering tuition, board and other related expenses,  internships, and other learning opportunities to expose them to careers in Agriculture. Dr. De’Etra Young, who oversees all the College of Agriculture’s scholarships, will serve as a co-project director along with Dean Reddy.  

“I am excited to be a part of this historical funding opportunity from USDA,” added Dr. Young, associate dean for the college’s academics and land-grant programs.

 “The Next-Gen grant will allow us to transform our student success portfolio, provide greater access to higher education through scholarships, and strengthen our current experiential learning and study abroad opportunities.” 

Additionally, programs related to FAHNP will be provided to community members to help them gain more information about the career options available to their young people. In addition to TSU, this project is a partnership with faculty from Fort Valley State University, Alcorn State University, the University of Houston, Chief Dull Knife College, Middle Tennessee State University, University of Tennessee – Martin, University of Tennessee – Knoxville, Virginia Tech, Vanderbilt University, and the Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences organization.

TSU faculty involved in this project along with Dr. John C. Ricketts (Principal Investigator), are College of Agriculture Dean, Dr. Chandra Reddy (Co-Project Director), Dr. De’Etra Young, ( Co-Project Director , Dr. Alyssa Rockers, Dr. Brione Lockett, Dr. LaPorchia Davis, Dr. Thomas Broyles, Dr. Yujuan Chen, Dr. M.S. Mahmud, Dr. Pramir Maharjan, Dr. Dilip Nandwani, Dr. Kilonzo-Nthenge, and Dr. Samuel Nahashon.

 For more information about programs sponsored by this grant award, please contact TSU Media Relations at 615.963.5331 or [email protected].

TSU College of Agriculture host USDA Forest Service event, pipeline for student employment and ‘R1’ status

Tennessee State University’s College of Agriculture hosted a USDA Forest Service-Southern Research Station Senior Leadership event this week, as a pipeline for employment opportunities for environmental science students.

USDA Forest Service, Southern Research Station (SRS) visit this week was yet another opportunity to highlight the university’s ongoing commitment to research and becoming an “R1” designation under the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Learning.

The TSU College of Agriculture is in the final stages of formalizing a partnership with the USDA Forest Service-Southern Research Station. (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

During the event, the university and SRS determined how goals and objectives may align for mutually beneficial outcomes and discussed how to improve connectivity between TSU and SRS scientists. USDA Forest Service representatives presented information about their agency, while TSU faculty and graduate students presented their research findings, with the idea of collaborating and integrating research projects with SRS.

Dr. Chandra Reddy, Director of Research and Administrator of Extension in the College of Agriculture, said the goal is to further expand the scope of the Center of Excellence on Natural Resources, Renewable Energy, and Environment with assistance from the SRS team.

SRS Director, Dr. Toral Patel-Weynand and Director of Research and Administrator of Extension in the College of Agriculture Dr. Chandra Reddy. (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

“SRS scientists conduct deep research in all aspects of the forestry with climate change filter,” Reddy said. “As we are building our capacity in environmental sciences, we want to build a strong partnership with the SRS team in training our graduate and undergraduate students, in addressing climate change concerns, and supporting the small forest landowners. We are very excited to host the leadership of the Southern Research Station of US Forest Service.”

SRS Director, Dr. Toral Patel-Weynand, highlighted their vision for increased collaboration. “We are working hard to make sure our workforce is inclusive and representative of the public we serve, a place where individuals can thrive and contribute to our collective success. We see places where TSU students can contribute to and gain experience from our research studies.”

HBCU Program Manager and Coordination Lead for SRS, Dr. Johnny Grace, said the Station, which is part of the nation’s largest forest research organization, is searching for ways to more effectively partner with TSU.

HBCU Program Manager and Coordination Lead for SRS, Dr. Johnny Grace (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

“We are attempting to connect with TSU students and faculty to develop a pipeline into our science programs and workforce,” Grace said.

While TSU scientists presented their lab work, a few graduate students studying agriculture presented their research as well.

Maria Schutte, a Dayton, Ohio native who is receiving her master’s degree from the environmental sciences program, said this opportunity will have more people involved in the forestry industry as the department of agricultural and environmental sciences is working towards being accredited for a forestry program.

“I think anything that helps us for research in a timely manner will help us get to R1,” Schutte said. “Having access to scientists through an established partnership to be able to set up projects will be great. It’s helping with our environmental sciences program, and I think this partnership will help us flush out environmental sciences as a major here.”

Maria Schutte (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

Robert Lee, former Deputy Program Manager for the SRS Forest Inventory and Analysis Program, said building positive relationships to enhance and sustain their nation’s forest ecosystems is one of the most important obligations to have. “This obligation also extends to promoting a diverse and inclusive workforce which are mutual goals of TSU and the Southern Research Station,” Lee said.

The TSU College of Agriculture is in the final stages of formalizing a partnership with the USDA Forest Service-Southern Research Station.

About USDA Forest Service

The Forest Service is an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture that administers the nation’s 154 national forests and 20 national grasslands. The Forest Service manages 193 million acres of land.

TSU receives $5 million grant that could lead to state being top hemp grower in region

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University has received nearly $5 million in a hemp research grant, an investment that could make the state of Tennessee the number one grower in the Southeast region. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the investment this week, awarding the grant to the College of Agriculture towards a new partnership for a Climate-Smart Fiber Hemp Project.

This investment for sustainable hemp fiber research will promote market development of industrial hemp supply as a climate-smart commodity through incentives to underserved Tennessee growers enrolled into the program.

Dr. Emmanuel Omondi

Dean and Director of Research/Administrator of Extension Chandra Reddy said the department is excited to support hemp producers in the state, particularly with climate smart production practices.

“We have been at the forefront of identifying appropriate hemp varieties to grow in Tennessee and have been facilitating producers’ meetings on our campus,” Reddy says. “This multi-million-dollar project strengthens our Center of Excellence focusing on developing Climate Smart practices in managing Natural Resources, Renewable Energy, and Environment.”

The hemp project is a collaborative initiative to expand the production of industrial hemp as a climate-smart commodity, evaluate its greenhouse gas benefits, and promote the value of market development to a cross-section of production agriculture, including historically underserved producers across the state of Tennessee.

Dr. Emmanuel Omondi and PhD student Anand Kumar at Tennessee State University’s agricultural farm

The project is led by Dr. Emmanuel Omondi, Assistant Professor of Agronomy and Industrial Hemp Extension Specialist.

Omondi says the greatest percentage of funds will be used to provide support and incentives to historically underserved farmers owning up to 500 acres to grow fiber hemp. The fiber hemp will then be processed and supplied to the motor vehicle industry as raw materials for manufacturing critical motor vehicle parts such as fabrics and bioplastics, he says.

“Funds will also be used to continue research into the best management agronomic production practices such as crop rotations, reduced tillage, alternative sources of fertilizers, and good genetics for Tennessee.”

Omondi said he is excited about the opportunity and looks forward to having a, “strong team of multidisciplinary partners who are totally committed to the successful execution of this project.”

TSU alum Frederick Cawthon, President of Hemp Alliance of Tennessee (HAT), who is a key partner within the project, said the overall goal is to create opportunities for underserved Tennessee growers.

“Tennessee can become the leading producer of hemp in the Southeast United States,” Cawthon said. “It’s a proud moment in my career to work alongside my alma mater to create opportunities for Tennessee’s diverse hemp producers. We are committed to growing this industry responsibly, and we encourage all industries to examine how they can utilize this climate-smart and regenerative raw material.”

In collaboration with TSU for the project is HAT, University of Tennessee (UTK), and the Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA) to address the global challenges posed by climate change.