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The Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics: An overview

Rigoberto Lopez

Rigoberto Lopez

As of June 2017, the College’s Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ARE) was ranked nineteenth worldwide among university agricultural economics departments, a significant achievement for a relatively small department competing with departments at much larger institutions such as Ohio State University, the University of Illinois and Purdue.

“Our goal is to continue our status as a premiere department of agricultural and resource economics, committed to excellence in teaching, research and extension,” says Rigoberto Lopez, professor and department head. “ARE is uniquely positioned within UConn, as a nexus between biological and physical sciences and the social and policy sciences.”

ARE is home to the Charles J. Zwick Center for Food and Resource Policy, which focuses on solutions to high-priority problems related to food, health, natural resources and the environment. The center is named for Charles J. Zwick, an alumnus and benefactor of the department. A distinguished scholar, public servant and business leader, Zwick served on the faculty at UConn and at Harvard University and was director of OMB during President Johnson’s administration. After leaving government service, Zwick served as president, CEO and chairman of the board of trustees for the Southeast Banking Corporation.

Recent Zwick Center activities include a pilot project involving graduate and undergraduate students to collect data on low-income households in Willimantic; co-funding a new portable economic laboratory; presentations to the Connecticut Farm Bureau and the Connecticut Department of Agriculture detailing the economic impacts of Connecticut’s agricultural industry; and funding a study on the impacts of diet quality and food consumption behavior by low-income households.

ARE encourages and supports research collaborations with other units, including the College’s Departments of Natural Resources and the Environment, Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, Extension, and the UConn School of Engineering. The department also partners with UConn’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity in its mission to improve public health issues related to food. (more…)

CAHNR in the news

newspaper readersHealthDay reported on research into food and beverage advertising aimed at kids. Lead author of the study, Associate Professor Jennifer Harris said, “Children continue to view thousands of TV ads per year for unhealthy food and drinks.” Harris is on the faculty of allied health sciences. See also UConn Today.

The Daily Campus quoted Steven Zinn, a professor and department head for animal science, in an article about the voluntary milking system that is coming to Kellogg Dairy Center.

UConn Today featured a story on CAHNR student Daniel Munch, who is majoring in livestock management and policy (individualized major) and resource economics. The article mentioned his high school involvement in 4-H, mentoring animal science freshmen and CAHNR Ambassadors. He was depicted with a rooster in the poultry barn.

By Patsy Evans

 

CAHNR in the news

newsprintNature published a study called “Creation of forest edges has a global impact on forest vertebrates.” Among the 30 researchers on the project is the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment Visiting Assistant Professor Laura Cisneros. See also UConn Today for a video and article.

The Day mentioned Tessa Getchis and her role in explaining the science behind commercial shellfishing operations. Getchis is an extension educator in the Department of Extension in New London County.

UConn Today reported on research into advertising that made unhealthy products seem healthier to children. The study was published in Pediatric Obesity, and its lead author was Associate Professor Jennifer Harris, who is part of allied health sciences. (more…)

Horticulturist brings patience and perseverance to development of new plant cultivars

Brand2

The original plant selected in 2012 to be Prunus x cistena ‘UCONNP001’. The cross was made in 2012. In 2016, the final decision was made to introduce and license the plant, and Brand was able to provide hundreds of plants generated via tissue culture to Monrovia Nursery, the licensee.

It takes years of perseverance and patience to bring a new plant cultivar to market. Mark Brand, professor in the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, has what it takes to plod through this lengthy process. To date, his lab has introduced twenty-seven new cultivars and currently has about a half dozen others in trials, of which he is optimistic several will be licensed in the next year or two.

The first step in launching a new cultivar is choosing a particular species of plant. Some ideas come from grower suggestions, others from a specific need. The latter was the case for Berberis (barberry), a plant that used extensively in commercial landscaping that had become an invasive. Brand developed a sterile version of the plant. Other new plant cultivars come about when an unusual seedling or plant habit is observed, such as a different growth pattern or color, presenting an opportunity to produce something special.

“Occasionally, you find these serendipitous things about a plant,” Brand says. “We originally started working on Buddleia [butterfly bush] because we wanted a sterile version. In Connecticut overwintering Buddleia can be problematic, but in milder climates butterfly bush can be weedy and invasive. With Buddleia, that was our original tactic. But our mutation breeding program produced a dwarf mutant that had a cool form and habit but so-so flower color, so we bred it with other cultivars with strong flower color to get dwarf plants in a range of colors. These plants have been introduced as the Better Homes and Gardens Soda Pop series.” The same mutation breeding program also produced the variegated ‘Summer Skies’ butterfly bush that is part of the Proven Winners® program.

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CAHNR in the news

newsprintUConn Magazine reported on the Skype a Scientist project where experts are paired with schools. It listed natural resources and the environment graduate student Mauri Liberati as holding nine sessions with one school.

Wallet Hub asked John Bovay questions about how foodies can save money and how policy changes can improve the local food scene in a “Best Foodie Cities in America” article. Bovay is an assistant professor in agricultural and resource economics.

UConn Magazine featured Horsebarn Hill as the premiere Storrs campus bird-watching site.

Associated Press referred to a UConn study that found highest concentrations of bears in Connecticut are not in the most remote areas. (more…)