Contributing to Research

Center for Agroforestry looking at research opportunities related to COVID-19 pandemic

For more than 20 years, the Center for Agroforestry at the University of Missouri, has served as one of the world’s leading centers contributing to the science underlying agroforestry, which is the science and practice of intensive land-use management combining trees and shrubs with crops or livestock. Agroforestry practices help landowners to diversify products, markets and farm income; improve soil and water quality; sequester carbon; reduce erosion, non-point source pollution and damage due to flooding; and mitigate climate change.

The Center for Agroforestry’s Chung-Ho Lin, an associate research professor, and his lab are currently looking at how to redirect its analytical capacity (reverse-transcription and real-time qPCR) for the detection and quantification of COVID-19 in food, water and air – and develop mitigation techniques to reduce community exposure to COVID-19. qPCR, or quantitative polymerase chain reaction, is a technology used for measuring DNA using polymerase chain reaction (PCR). PCR is commonly used in molecular biology to quickly make millions of copies of a DNA sample, which gives scientists an opportunity to study the sample in great detail.

“This would be a great opportunity for the Center for Agroforestry to adapt our unique resources to address an urgent need,” said Sarah Lovell, director of the Center for Agroforestry.

The Center for Agroforestry is also exploring what potential there is for Missouri-grown, nutrient-dense fruits and nuts that could possibly contribute to human health and regional food security during a pandemic health crisis.

“Certain natural compounds found in nuts, berries and other crops have been shown to provide protection or improved recovery against various illnesses, and some of these same crops can be grown locally to contribute to regional food security during crisis situations,” Lovell said.

Lovell added that the Center for Agroforestry can contribute to research efforts by identifying novel phytochemicals in elderberry and black walnut that could be effective for preventing, treating or reducing complications of coronavirus; screening and selecting cultivars of these crops to maximize concentrations of these novel phytochemicals; coordinating the value-added processing of healthy foods to improve shelf-life and enable shipping for online sales; and providing an array of online educational resources that enable stakeholders to enhance their regional food system capacity-building, including an emphasis on perennial foods that offer antiviral and antioxidant health benefits.

The Center for Agroforestry is one of the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources’ Programs of Distinction, a select collection of programs that exemplify CAFNR’s drive to distinction. Those programs define CAFNR’s current impact on Missouri’s agriculture and natural resource economies, providing understanding for how CAFNR is addressing challenges facing Missouri agriculture and natural resources.