MU’s Center for Agroforestry to Host Virtual Symposium

Theme: “Demystifying Perennial Crop Improvement and Integration”

The University of Missouri’s Center for Agroforestry is hosting its 14th annual symposium virtually to allow for easy participation. The January 18 event will focus on perennial crop improvement and features an impressive slate of researchers and industry leaders in its speaker lineup.

“Perennial crop improvement is often misunderstood and underappreciated,” said Hannah Hemmelgarn, assistant program director for the Center for Agroforestry. “The presenters at this year’s Symposium are at the center of this work. They’re focused on genetic characterization of cultivars that have been developed through selection over long periods of time like breadfruit and black walnut; breeding efforts to advance domestication of new crops like Kernza; and understanding how these plants can be fully integrated into supply chains — from seed to sale.”

The six-hour event will start at 10 a.m. and end at 4 p.m. feature fifteen experts in the field, including:

  • Emily Warschefsky, associate scientist in the William L. Brown Center for Ethnobotany at Missouri Botanical Garden
  • Tom Molnar, associate professor in the Plant Biology Department at Rutgers University, and Hazelnut Consortium co-lead
  • Noa Kekuewa Lincoln, associate professor in indigenous crops and cropping systems at University of Hawai’i at Mānoa and the principal investigator of the Indigenous Cropping Systems Laboratory
  • Nyree Zerega, professor, conservation scientist, and director in plant biology and conservation at Northwestern University and the Chicago Botanic Garden
  • Nick Jordan, professor of agronomy and plant genetics, University of Minnesota, St. Paul and co-director of the Forever Green Initiative
  • Jeanne Romero-Severson, professor at the University of Notre Dame in forest genetics
  • Hale Ann Tufan, associate professor at Cornell University’s School of Integrative Plant Science and co-lead of the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Crop Improvement
  • Liz Prenger, senior research specialist for American Elderberry at the University of Missouri Center for Agroforestry
  • Tessa Peters, researcher and the director of crop stewardship at The Land Institute.

More information about presenters and their research areas can be found on the Center for Agroforestry website. These topics are widely varied and include native fruit and nut trees as well as genetics and genomics in natural and structured populations, continuous living cover on farmland and temperate perennial agriculture.

The symposium will also feature panel discussions on existing tree crop selections, gaps in research and emerging opportunities; new developments in perennial herbaceous crops; and on-the-ground producer perspectives on native perennial cultivars.

“This is an exciting time to be coming together around this topic because of the increasing focus on agroforestry and perennial crops as part of ‘climate-smart agriculture,’” Hemmelgarn said. “The Center for Agroforestry is part of two recently awarded USDA Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities grants, which focus on producer incentives for implementing these practices, so this is a critical time to learn together about opportunities and limitations with existing perennial crop plant materials.”

Those interested in attending can register online through the Center for Agroforestry’s website.

Certified Crop Advisors may receive three continuing education credits in crop management and two credits in sustainability. Attendees are also eligible for up to 5.5 Continuing Forestry Education credits through the Society of American Foresters.

The Symposium is free and open to the public, but suggested donations of $20-40 help value the time, effort and insights of those who make this event possible, Hemmelgarn said. Donations can be made online to the Agroforestry Development Gifts Fund through Mizzou Give Direct.

The Center for Agroforestry at the University of Missouri, established in 1998, is a preeminent global center contributing to the science and practice underlying agroforestry, which combines trees and shrubs with crops or livestock. Integrated practices of agroforestry — forest farmingalley croppingsilvopastureriparian forest bufferswindbreaks, and urban food forests — help to protect the environment and improve biodiversity, while sustaining land resources for future generations. Agroforestry practices help landowners create multifunctional working landscapes to provide a wide range of benefits.

Learn more about the Center for Agroforestry by visiting its website.