University of Nebraska leading the way in meeting agriculture and food challenges of the future

By 2050, the world’s population is projected to exceed 9.6 billion, compared to 7.2 billion today.

That population – a growing share of whom will live in cities and earn a middle-class income, demanding more diverse and expensive diets – will require twice as much food.

And doubling agricultural output without further pressuring already-stressed water and land resources will largely depend on significantly improved efficiency in agriculture and food systems.

The University of Nebraska and its Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources are well-positioned to lead the way in meeting this global agricultural imperative, according to Ronnie Green, NU vice president and vice chancellor of the institute.

Five years into its “IANR to 2025” plan, the institute has made important progress toward its vision of becoming the leading public university in the world in sustainably feeding the future, Green reported to the NU Board of Regents.

“We’re living in 2015, but we need to be thinking about 2050,” Green said. “If we want to meet the food, fuel and water needs of the future, agriculture needs to innovate – today. Nebraska is a living laboratory and its public university can be the global leader in growing a healthy future for our state and the world.”

Among the recent successes at IANR highlighted by Green:

  • The institute is leading the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s key growth objectives. Driven by growing student interest in production agriculture and natural resources, enhanced recruitment efforts, and high-quality academic programs, enrollment in College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources programs has increased 10 years in a row, to 3,500 students this year, and has reached a record high for four straight years. Average ACT scores of incoming freshmen and out-of-state enrollment are both on the rise, and CASNR’s six-year graduation rate is 78 percent. Enrollment at the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture in Curtis is also on an upward trajectory, rising to 384 this year, a 28 percent increase.
  • The university is meeting the needs of Nebraska’s agricultural workforce. With continued strength in hiring in the agricultural sector, the share of IANR graduates who have their next step in place – whether a job in the industry, returning to a home operation, or continuing their education – exceeds 90 percent. Green noted that IANR also is building innovators to advance agriculture. The Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program, created in 2010 with the purpose of training the next generation of agricultural entrepreneurs, now engages more than 140 students and is the fastest-growing program within IANR.
  • IANR is making strategic investments in talent. The institute will grow its faculty ranks by 20 percent by 2016, attracting faculty in interdisciplinary areas that are key to Nebraska’s economic vitality, including science literacy; stress biology of plants, animals and agroecosystems; healthy humans; healthy systems for agricultural production and natural resources; computational sciences; and drivers of economic vitality. These new faculty will contribute toward UNL’s goal to grow research expenditures to $300 million; already IANR’s research expenditures exceed $80 million.
  • IANR is leading the population and development of Nebraska Innovation Campus. The Department of Food Science & Technology will move to Innovation Campus later this year, becoming the first university tenant at the campus. The move will facilitate new collaborative research opportunities with ConAgra Foods, the university’s anchor private partner at Innovation Campus which is being leveraged to form a new Nebraska Alliance for Advanced Food Sanitation partnership with eight major food companies. Other Phase I developments at Innovation Campus, including a state-of-the-art greenhouse complex, will leverage the university’s expertise in agriculture.
  • Programs in agriculture, nutrition, rural development, plant and animal science and other key areas in the life sciences are forming the basis for partnerships that serve Nebraskans and people around the world. IANR is the key component of the University of Nebraska’s Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute, focused on ensuring global water and food security, and Rural Futures Institute, focused on expanding economic opportunity and vitality in rural communities. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has asked the university to host a national center for agricultural literacy, which will be led by Nebraska Extension and faculty in the science literacy area. And, the university has formed new research partnerships and faculty and student exchanges with leading institutions in Brazil, India, China, Vietnam, Indonesia and other countries based on water, food science, food innovation and biotechnology.

Green noted that while it enjoys impressive momentum, the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources will need to continue to evolve in order to advance food, energy, natural resources and landscape security around the world.

“The Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources is home to faculty, staff and students who are passionate about making a difference for Nebraska and the world. Our goals are bold and on target – and we’re in the right place, at the right time, with the right people on board, to achieve them,” Green said. “I think we’re at a real inflection point and I could not be more excited about where the University of Nebraska and all our partners in agriculture are headed to meet the challenges ahead in 2050.”

SOUND BITES

“The 2050 Challenge”

Ronnie Green, University of Nebraska vice president and Harlan Vice Chancellor of the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, describes the challenge the world is facing in ensuring water and food security in 2050.

“Needs are Great”

Green notes that competition for limited resources and climate change are among the challenges the world must address in solving the global agricultural imperative.

“Leader in the World”

Green describes the vision of the University of Nebraska’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources to be the leading public university in the world in sustainably feeding the future.

“Enrollment Growth”

Green describes the impressive growth in the university’s agricultural programs, which has enjoyed record enrollment for four straight years, thanks to increased student interest in agriculture and natural resources, enhanced recruiting, and high-quality programs.

“Building Innovators”

Green notes that in addition to growing enrollment, IANR is doing more to train the next generation of highly skilled agricultural workers. The university’s Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program, which is building rural entrepreneurs, is the fastest-growing program within the institute.

Contact
Melissa Lee
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