The college has identified six key program areas as a focus for development and investment:
Virginia’s diverse climate allows farmers to grow a variety of crops and raise livestock in every part of the state. Although the most recent figures from the U.S. Census of Agriculture revealed that Virginia’s total farm sales were a record-breaking $2.9 billion in 2007, the commonwealth’s agricultural industry faces a number of challenges.
What’s more, less than 2 percent of the U.S. population produces the food and fiber consumed by a large portion of the world today. It is no longer enough to feed the world’s population. Citizens, businesses, and government entities everywhere are focusing on how to sustain and revitalize communities – both rural and urban.
Ranked among the leading institutions of its kind in the nation, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is committed to improving agricultural productivity and environmental sustainability.
Whether advancing our knowledge of human health and nutrition; assisting in the prevention of obesity, diabetes, and other chronic diseases; addressing lifestyle and consumer behaviors for healthful living; developing new and alternative food products to enhance the intake of micronutrients and antioxidants; or testing new strategies to improve our understanding of lifestyle choices – researchers in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences are building a better understanding of the relationship between food, nutrition, and health.
Our basic and applied research ranges from a study on the genetic factors that contribute to obesity in mice to a pilot program that promotes physical activity and fruit and vegetable consumption at the workplace.
The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is committed to helping Virginia’s producers add value to their existing practices. We are engaging in the biodesign – or breeding – of plants to alter the production of food and fiber in order to minimize the adverse environmental impacts associated with agriculture.
Our research on soybeans, for example, aims to reduce the cost of livestock production by reducing animal feed prices, while also preventing environmental pollution in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
Meanwhile, the college is conducting research on bioprocessing, the process whereby biological materials – plants, animals, and their derivatives – are converted into biofuels and other value-added products using biological agents such as living microbes and enzymes.
Researchers are developing cost-effective strategies to produce biofuels from corn stover and other common plant materials without interfering with the food supply. They are also searching for novel biomass sources, ranging from switchgrass to poplar, to find solutions for the nation’s energy crisis.
With an annual economic impact of about $3 billion in Virginia alone, the green industry is vital to the future of the commonwealth and the nation.
In addition to educating the next generation of plant scientists and greenhouse managers, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is helping to develop high-value horticultural products, businesses, and systems for an industry that relies on the introduction of new plant varieties. It is also providing research and education to assist the commonwealth with adjusting to the economic and environmental impacts of growing urban environments and enhancing rural ecosystems.
The college has partnered with industry officials, state agencies, and other research centers to provide research-based support for this growing industry.
Each year, millions die from malaria, dengue and yellow fever, West Nile virus, and other vector-borne diseases.
Researchers in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences are working to understand the spread of infectious diseases in animals and humans, develop methods of attenuating the effects of diseases through state-of-the-art technologies, and implement novel control strategies to lessen their impacts on individuals and communities.
Whether studying the immune system of mosquitoes to capitalize on their innate ability to fight disease or developing insecticides for bed nets in sub-Saharan Africa, researchers put their knowledge of such diverse fields as entomology, toxicology, and molecular biology to use with the ultimate goal of saving human lives.
The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is dedicated to strengthening communities and their economic viability by creating innovative tools that citizens and local governments can use to respond to change.
Virginia Cooperative Extension’s community viability area specialists are working with Extension agents in field offices and with other campus-based faculty to address community food systems, civic leadership, community planning, entrepreneurship, and other emerging issues.
Our audiences include both local governments and the general population, from individuals seeking to start businesses to those seeking public office, from those working for the common good to those working for personal enrichment.
Extension also has a vibrant 4-H Youth Development program that enrolls more than 150,000 children and teens in a wide variety of activities.