Programs of Distinction

The University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR) has numerous existing research, teaching and extension programs that are nationally and internationally recognized. To highlight the recognized strength of existing and future programs, CAFNR has established criteria for Programs of Distinction, a select collection of programs that exemplify CAFNR’s drive to distinction. CAFNR’s Programs of Distinction, together with our academic programs, define our current impact on Missouri’s agriculture and natural resource economies, providing understanding for how CAFNR is addressing challenges facing Missouri agriculture and natural resources.

In line with CAFNR’s strategic plan, the College has designated these programs as Programs of Distinction.

The mission of the Center for Regenerative Agriculture is to catalyze resilient and equitable food and agricultural systems that improve the health, vitality and prosperity of farmers and their communities. The emergence of regenerative agriculture responds to the pressing need for sustainable, equitable and resilient food systems amidst climate challenges. Originating from efforts at the University of Missouri, the Center for Regenerative Agriculture, established in 2021, pioneers research, education and extension initiatives. It focuses on cover crops, soil health, livestock grazing and other conservation practices, aiming to transform agricultural practices. The center collaborates with  the MU Center for Agroforestry and diverse stakeholders, including farmers, landowners and companies, to disseminate knowledge and foster community prosperity.

The Center for Tree Ring Science (CTRS), initiated in 1968 and recognized as a research center in 2021, conducts multidisciplinary research spanning various fields including natural resources, climatology, archaeology and more. Its scholarly accomplishments include over 150 published papers and technical reports, along with extensive tree-ring and fire history data archives. The program’s impact extends to informing environmental and global climate change discussions, aiding in natural resource management decisions and supporting economic development through ecosystem management and wood-related research. Recognized nationally and internationally, it collaborates with entities like the U.S. Forest Service and The Nature Conservancy, providing valuable data and expertise for informed decision-making and advancing scientific understanding.

Established in 1988, the Financial Research Institute (FRI) specializes in applied financial research focusing on regulated public utilities, particularly those regulated by the Missouri Public Service Commission. Recognized nationally, FRI collaborates with industry leaders and regulatory associations, facilitating effective regulatory policy through forums, symposiums and executive education programs. Its annual Public Utility Symposium draws industry professionals and features top-level executives and regulators. FRI has expanded to offer executive education, webinars and a leadership institute. With a recent administrative relocation, FRI aims to enhance research capacity and academic programs while maintaining industry partnerships. Funded by industry sponsorships and registration fees, FRI seeks additional grant funding for scholarly research. FRI addresses regulatory policies impacting economic development, human health and environmental quality.

The Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI) seeks to provide objective analysis of issues related to agricultural markets and policies. FAPRI has developed a state, national and international reputation as a reliable source of information and analysis on everything from farm commodity market outlook to the impacts of farm bills, trade disputes and biofuel policies. FAPRI is best known for its projections for the farm economy. Using its set of economic models, FAPRI develops 10-year projections for thousands of indicators that affect the state of the food and agricultural sectors. FAPRI projections include the price of corn and cattle, farm income, agricultural land uses, the cost of government farm programs, and retail food prices.

FAPRI, which was established in 1984, provides analysis that helps people make more informed decisions. It helps policymakers understand policy options for farm income, food prices and the federal budget. Market projections help farmers decide which crops to plant and how to manage risk. FAPRI analysis helps lenders decide what types of loans to make and provides information to businesses making investment decisions.

The Graduate Institute of Cooperative Leadership (GICL)‘s rich history rooted in agriculture, serving farmers and their patron-owned entities since 1971. Originally established to address a need for sophisticated governance and management training for agricultural cooperatives, GICL has evolved into a nationally recognized institution offering executive and emerging leader education. Its flagship programs, the Summer Institute and Board Chair & CEO Conference, attract industry professionals from around the globe. Steered by Mizzou faculty expertise, GICL remains committed to translating emerging knowledge in economics and management sciences to its audience. With over 2,600 alumni globally, GICL actively engages hundreds of cooperative directors annually. Aligned with CAFNR’s strategic priorities, GICL empowers rural communities and showcases CAFNR’s leadership in agricultural cooperatives. Supported by prominent industry partners, GICL continues to make a significant impact on agricultural cooperatives, the rural communities the serve and the agricultural sector nationally.

The Interdisciplinary Plant Group (IPG) is a cross-discipline and integrative program that transcends traditional departmental boundaries to foster excellence in plant biology research and education at MU. The program, which began in 1981, promotes an interactive environment that facilitates the sharing of ideas and resources, and creates opportunities for collaboration through interdisciplinary workshops, seminars and an annual international symposium. The IPG’s overarching research theme focuses on understanding how plants respond to changing environments. Within this theme, research projects are grouped by studies that focus on genetic diversity, developmental mechanisms, and biotic and abiotic interactions.

The IPG has grown to include 55 faculty-led teams, plus nine emeritus members, from multiple units and colleges. In the past 15 years, IPG faculty have secured nearly $235 million in extramural grant funding. IPG faculty also have an exceptional record of scholarly publications. In the past 10 years, the group has published more than 1,800 articles in peer-reviewed journals.

The Interdisciplinary Reproduction and Health Group (IRHG) was organized and established through a faculty-driven, grassroots effort in 2016 to develop a multidisciplinary program to foster distinction in reproduction, health research and education at Mizzou. The primary goal of the IRHG is to address broad challenges to reproduction and health of humans and animals by conducting basic, clinical and translational research and providing training for the next generation of scientists.

At present, IRHG includes more than 100 faculty, staff and trainees (graduate students and postdoctoral fellows) from eight departments across five colleges/schools at MU. The IRHG program at Mizzou is the strongest reproductive biology program in the state and region, and ranks in the top five nationally among land-grant universities based on extramural funding. The program is a nationally and internationally recognized brand, particularly in animal sciences. The faculty consistently have the largest number of extramural grants focused on reproductive biology from USDA and NIH, as well as the NSF and companies, in comparison to other Animal Science departments.

Missouri Climate Center (MCC), established in 1995, is a vital entity for atmospheric and climate science research and extension, serving Missouri’s agriculture and natural resources sectors. The MCC coordinates and collects weather observations, produces value-added climate products, monitors climate change, and applies research tools to predict climatic changes and their impacts. Through flagship programs like the Missouri Mesonet, the MCC provides real-time weather data and valuable tools for agriculture, receiving millions of website visits annually. With a strong history of grant acquisition and publications, the MCC has made significant impacts in climate monitoring, research and outreach, and is recognized nationally as an American Association of State Climatologists Recognized State Climate Office. Collaborations with state agencies and partners demonstrate the MCC’s crucial role in addressing weather-related challenges.

When the MU Forage-Livestock Group was formed in 1971, plant and animal scientists met informally over lunches to plan grazing experiments and discuss research findings. Today, the group includes more than 20 scientists and their elite teams in CAFNR, who collaborate with colleagues in the College of Veterinary Medicine. The goal of the MU Forage-Livestock Group is to provide science that will sustain Missouri’s livestock industry, while also protecting the state’s natural resources. The group brings together faculty, staff and students to teach, conduct research and do extension work at the University of Missouri.

The group works to increase scientific discovery, dissemination and application of science in forage-livestock agriculture. The interdisciplinary programs include management-intensive grazing, fescue toxicosis, winter feeding systems, animal nutritional management, precision grazing and dairy grazing systems. The Missouri Grazing Schools, for example, serve as just one of the important outcomes of the MU Forage-Livestock Group. Analysis shows that those schools contribute $125 million each year to the economy in Missouri and support more than 2,000 jobs in the state.

The MU Livestock Engineering Team (MULE Team) facilitates the production of genetically engineered livestock for science, medicine and agriculture. The defining identity of the program is the central role it plays in productive collaborations with research programs at MU and at other institutions across the country. The MULE Team began in 1989 and focuses on all aspects of embryo technologies including oocyte and preimplantation embryo development, embryo culture, and cryopreservation. More than 75 different genetic modifications have been introduced into pigs, which has led to the production of more than 1,200 live-born pigs.

The National Swine Resource and Research Center (NSRRC) is a critical component of the MULE Team. The NSRRC serves as a resource for biomedical investigators and researchers, providing those individuals with access to critically needed swine models for human health and disease. Serving the research community often requires great flexibility to meet the needs of individual investigators, which the NSRRC accommodates. MULE Team researchers have been awarded $140 million in grants, including $33 million for operation of the NSRRC, since the program’s inception.

The Show-Me-Select™ Replacement Heifer Program is recognized nationally as a model in the land-grant system in translational research and extension with immediate impacts on Missouri’s beef industry. The program provides cattle producers with tools to enhance reproductive and genetic potential of their herds and improve ultimate profitability. The program transfers science-based knowledge that enables participants to make practical production decisions that impact their bottom line.

The Show-Me-Select™ Replacement Heifer Program is an educational conduit for beef producers, veterinarians and allied industry, and is focused on enhancing the adoption of reproduction and genetic/genomic technologies across Missouri. The program, which began in 1996 with pilot programs in northeast and southwest Missouri, is the only statewide on-farm beef heifer development and marketing program of its kind in the United States. Nearly 150,000 heifers, from more than 900 farms, are enrolled in the program. The marketing arm of the program has reported sales of almost 37,000 heifers into 20 states nationwide, with gross receipts of more than $60 million. To date, MU’s investment in implementing the Show-Me-Select™ Replacement Heifer Program has resulted in an estimated impact of $200 million statewide.

The goal of the University of Missouri Center for Agroforestry is to initiate, coordinate and enhance agroforestry activities to meet the environmental, social and economic needs of land management worldwide. It is focused on serving as a preeminent global center in agroforestry research, education and technology transfer with comprehensive programs that encompass ecological and economic sustainability, specialty crop and commodity production, environmental conservation and stewardship, and integrated management.

The center, created in 1998, supports the long-term future of rural and urban working farms and forests by achieving economic, environmental and social sustainability. Interdisciplinary collaboration is one of the most notable hallmarks of the center. To achieve its objectives, the center draws upon diverse knowledge, talent and resident intellectual capacity, and supports researchers located in academic departments across CAFNR. The center’s interdisciplinary research programs work in clusters to create synergy among scientists, enhance the center’s research creativity and productivity, and achieve better integration among diverse disciplines. Linked to the center’s science and research programs are numerous partnerships with landowners, natural resource professionals, federal and state agencies and non-profit organizations that produce an array of positive outcomes. Since its inception, the center has brought in more than $55 million in grants and contracts to support its mission.