International conference at TSU to focus on ancient crop once grown by Aztecs

Amaranth is a pseudocereal that researchers say is a food of the future because of its easy cultivation. (Submitted Photo)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU New Service) – Tennessee State University’s College of Agriculture, Human and Natural Sciences and the Amaranth Institute are hosting a conference August 3-5 to study amaranth, an ancient crop once grown by the Aztecs.

The three-day event titled “State of the Art in Amaranth Research, Food Utilization and Development,” allows farmers, researchers, educators, health food professionals and industry experts to share the latest research findings and new information about the pseudocereal, which is actually seed from a flowering plant known for its nutrition.

Researchers say the seeds are an excellent source of protein, dietary fiber and minerals. In addition, they are gluten-free but can be milled into flour that will increase the amino acid and vitamin content of baked goods. The grain species of cultivated amaranths are native to Latin America, but vegetable amaranth species can be found in India, China and Africa, especially in places where comparable spinach, collards or lettuce will not grow. The United States started growing grain amaranths in the 1970s and popped amaranth has become a popular cereal in health food stores.

Because of amaranth’s rapid growth, ease of cultivation, and high nutritional value, it has been deemed a “crop of the future,” said TSU Professor Matthew Blair, who organized the event on campus along with Amaranth Institute President Mary Beth Wilson and board members from America to Zimbabwe.

“TSU will be reporting on germplasm screening and the first incidence of root pathogens,” Blair said. “A one-acre field of germplasm will be on display on the TSU farm at its peak-of-growth cycle showing the high yield potential per plant of this amazing C4 crop species.”

Attendees will tour TSU’s germplasm field at 11:30 a.m. Friday, August 5, at the Agricultural Research and Education Center.

“We are pleased to host this timely conference at a time when climate change is real and the world’s temperature rise is felt everywhere,” said TSU-CAHNS Dean Chandra Reddy.

Blair’s graduate, undergraduate, and interning students will speak at the event, including Ranjita Thapa, a fellowship awarded graduate of the University of Bangalore and of TSU. Attendees are also coming from as far away as China, Haiti and Pakistan.

The conference is open to the public. To register, please visit the Amaranth Institute:

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209

About Tennessee State University

With more than 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 undergraduate, 22 graduate and seven doctoral programs. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at