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MSU Today

By focusing on natural resources, agriculture and food, MSU AgBioResearch touches each of us

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Russ White
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Doug Buhler, Kirk Heinze

“Our mission within the university is that we’re the hub of a lot of the food, agriculture, and natural resources research that goes on at MSU,” Doug Buhler tells Kirk Heinze on MSU Today. “Our job is to help a lot of bright, motivated faculty address key research needs for Michigan and beyond.” 

Buhler is assistant vice president for research and graduate studies at MSU and director of MSU AgBioResearch.

MSU AgBioResearch supports the work of more than 300 scientists in seven colleges at MSU:  Agriculture and Natural Resources, Arts and Letters, Communication Arts and Sciences, Engineering, Natural Science, Social Science and Veterinary Medicine.

Other partnerships and collaborations include MSU Extension, several state and federal agencies, Michigan agricultural commodity groups and a plethora of additional stakeholders.  In addition, MSU AgBioResearch, along with MSU Extension, has historically enjoyed strong legislative support in Michigan and Washington D.C. 

Buhler says another important aspect of the mission is to provide “oversight of a research center network that includes multiple sites across the state that helps us serve the very diverse agriculture and natural resource industries of Michigan.

“Next to California, Michigan has the most agricultural diversity in the U.S.  Therefore, it’s especially important for us to have research facilities in several key producing areas of the state so we can address the specific, and often specialized, needs relative to those areas.” 

Because of the emphasis on food, environmental and agricultural research, Buhler makes a compelling case that MSU AgBioResearch work directly impacts every citizen in Michigan.

“We’re very proud of that, and that goes back to our roots and the beginning of Michigan State University. We do fundamental research with an intended outcome. So our role is to really try to take the most cutting-edge science and use it to try to solve real world problems.”

An important new initiative is Food@MSU. The program is designed to help people better understand where their food comes from and how it affects their health and the planet.

“A very important component of Food@MSU is that we are asking people representing a broad demographic spectrum what they think and know about the food they consume.  Among other things, we are hosting roundtables and conducting survey research so that much of our data are from the ground up versus the top down.  This represents what I think is a refreshing paradigm shift from the way universities often engage the public.”

Buhler and Heinze also discuss the importance of the U.S. Farm Bill reauthorization to the MSU AgBioResearch mission. And they talk about MSU’s Year of Global Africa, featured in the most recent issue of Futures, the excellent, semi-annual publication of MSU AgBioResearch.

MSU Today airs Sunday afternoons at 4:00 on 105.1 FM and AM 870.

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