REAP 2014, “Sowing Into Your Future”

August 1, 2014

REAP participantsThe Research Extension Apprentice Program (REAP) has just come to a close after 2 weeks of learning, fun, relationship-building, and skill development. REAP is a program for high school juniors and seniors that are interested in Agriculture and/or Human Sciences. The program is 2 weeks long and provides on-campus room and board for the students along with conducting many fun and educational activities. The goal of the program is to educate students in research and extension related topics in a fun and interactive way, and motivate them to pursue a career in Agriculture or Human Sciences.

From June 15th to June 27th, the students attended a series of workshops and activities that were designed to teach the students skills that can help them be more efficient and maximize their potential and introduce them to some of the basics of Agriculture and Human Sciences. They discussed topics such as, the power of meditation, basic nutrition, the benefits of juicing, the power of forgiveness, and effective time management. The students also attended curriculum oriented seminars conducted by CARC researchers and scientists where they learned the basics of different agriculture and human sciences. They learned about chemistry, different types of soils, natural resources, environmental systems, hydrology, veterinary medicine, growth and development of livestock animals, and more.

The students were also able to visit the George Bush Library in College Station where they toured the museum and learned about former President George H. W. Bush. They also took a trip to Peckerwood Gardens in Hempstead where they were able to observe several different types of rare and uncommon plants.

The program came to an end on June 27th with a closing program for the students, parents, faculty, and staff in which the students were able to give emotional speeches and reflect about their experience in the program. The closing program also featured speeches from faculty and staff members of CEP and CAHS including a motivational speech from Dean of CAHS, Dr. Alton B. Johnson. Some of the students also took turns as Master of Ceremonies, and some entertained the crowd with dance and spoken word performances.

REAP 2014 turned out to be a success, and all the participants enjoyed their experience and their time at PVAMU. They all left with new friends and new skills to help them stay motivated and be successful and attend college, hopefully, at PVAMU CAHS.

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More photos from the REAP 2014 event can be found at the CAHS Facebook and Instagram pages

By Jakari Bates

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New Hope for Farmers: Fighting Hunger

May 1, 2013

WorldFoodDayPrairie View, TX—Imagine eating one meal a day or worse no meal at all or watching your child/children perish because there is no food to eat or the food is unaffordable. Unimaginable for many in developed countries, especially people in the United States of America, huh? Unfortunately, the grim reality is that there are 925 mil- lion hungry people in the world. And alarming considering the wealthiest nation, USA, has about 14.5 percent of households that go hungry.

The hunger issues of many nations are based on food scarcity, but the USA’s hunger problem is perpetuated by poverty. To directly reduce hunger, nations must come together and confront the issue head on. In accordance to the challenge, Prairie View A&M University’s College of Agriculture and Human Sciences joined the movement to combat hunger during World Food Day (WFD). Taking action in the community and around the world amidst growing concerns of the world’s food supply is the path to resolution.

Many believe that modern agricultural practices and food control are tools to build corporate profits and monopolies rather than feed and nourish the world’s inhabitants. Fortunately, the current administration commit- ted to strengthening agriculture in poor countries and ending world hunger through the Feed the Future pro- gram. When one in seven people are undernourished, it proves that small farmers are underutilized because they offer a breadth of resources to feed the world. This year’s WFD theme “Agricultural Cooperatives: Key to Feeding the World” is critical in curbing the hunger pandemic.

Local farmers provide a sound business environment if the government establishes favorable policies, transparency in laws and regulations because they have grassroots commitment. “There is an environmental need for cooperatives to develop, form, thrive and compete with big businesses. Having cooperatives are better for tracking where our food is produced; hence improving food security. For instance, Sysco Foods flies food from Australia to our neighborhoods making silos a huge issue,” says Jay Crossley of Houston Tomorrow, a non-profit that explores urban issues and growth in the Houston, TX region.

Too many in this world are struggling to find their next meal. However, there are programs in the USA to en- able the vulnerable to find a way out of hunger and poverty. To raise awareness on food, health and nutrition programs, program director, Faye Walker, and third year student, Jordan MaClin from CAHS’ Human Nutrition and Foods, prepared a humble meal. The meal comprised of rice, beans and corn muffins had the audience asking “Where is the meat?” and engaged conversation about food insecurity. Clearly, this meal was a means to understand the situation people face around the world and here in America.

By Staff Writer: Kelley A. Redmon

Research Scientist Seeks to Improve Yield and Quality of Sweet Potatoes

May 1, 2013

Dr.GaoPRAIRIE VIEW, TX – Seeking knowledge-based solutions to improve the yield and quality of sweet potatoes is the major research focus of one of the College of Agriculture and Human Sciences’ newest members, Dr. Ming Gao. Coming on board in August, 2012 as a research scientist, Dr. Gao brings his extensive research experience in sweet potato genomics and biotechnology to expand and enhance Prairie View A&M University’s research in basic and applied plant sciences.

“My research will help us understand how the formation of storage roots, commonly called sweet potatoes, is initiated and regulated genetically in sweet potato plants,” said Gao. “In other words, discovering why some of the plants produce sweet potatoes and why some do not will assist us in devising novel ways to cultivate the plant to have a better yield as well as having a more uniform shape and size.”

Dr. Gao is also working on revealing the genetic mechanism that determines the amount and type of starch produced in sweet potatoes. Gao said that through breeding and genetic engineering, his research could lead to novel value-added cultivars that produce the desired amount of starch or starch with special properties or nutritional values.

Dr. Gao has a Ph.D. in Plant Physiology from Pennsylvania State University, a M.S. in Biology from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and a B.S. in Botany from Zhongsheng University in China. He has had extensive postdoc research training in biotechnology, genetic and genomics research on corn, wheat and green algae in world-class academic and private research laboratories in the United States, Canada, France and Germany before he started sweet potato research.

He was previously a senior research scientist /coordinator at the Center for Biotechnology and Genomics at Alcorn State University and led the research group to attract more than $3 million of external research funding from 2005 to 2012.

Dr. Gao has authored and co-authored numerous publications and is recognized internationally in his research field. He currently serves as a member of the editorial board for the “Journal of Biotech Research”, and has been a panelist for several biotechnology-related grant programs of the United States Department of Agriculture-National Institute of Food and Agriculture and Department of Energy in recent years.

For more information contact Dr. Gao at

Research Scientist Brings Medicinal/Herbal Plant Specialty to Prairie View A&M University College of Agriculture and Human Sciences

May 1, 2013

Dr.ArunaPRAIRIE VIEW, TX – Dr. Aruna Weerasooriya is the most recent addition to the team of research scientists in Prairie View A&M University’s College of Agriculture and Human Sciences (CAHS) Cooperative Agricultural Research Center. Coming on board in January, 2013, Weerasooriya’s specialty is medicinal/herbal plants, and his research focuses on cutting edge methods of studying the beneficial compounds and extraction of the plant.

Prior to joining Prairie View A&M University, Weerasooriya was employed at the University of Mississippi. He earned a doctorate in Plant Systematics from the University of Hong Kong and trained as a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Missouri in St. Louis and at the Missouri Botanical Gardens in Molecular Systematics to differentiate various plant groups.

Dr. Weerasooriya states that his aim is to establish the first medicinal plant collection using botanical plants, incorporate financial benefits to small farmers for becoming medicinal growers and establish a cash crop while creating the first 1890 botanical garden at Prairie View A&M University.

He also intends to work closely with the Cooperative Extension Program, the service component of the CAHS, to help educate the public regarding herbal medicines and the efficacy factor of research on certain medical drugs.