Thursday, June 13, 2024

MTSU forms new agricultural research program with Guangxi University, China


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Photo courtesy of Andy Heidt / MTSU News

A landmark partnership was formed Monday when officials from Middle Tennessee State University and China’s Guangxi University of Chinese Medicine met in the President’s Conference Room at the Cope Administration Center.

The meeting, which was headed by MTSU Provost Mark Byrnes and Guangxi representative Jiagang Deng, culminated in an agreement to “(solidify) their ties with regard to cooperative research of agricultural residues and traditional medicine,” according to a statement released by MTSU.

As part of the program, MTSU will be partnering with the “Guangxi Collaborative Innovative Center for Research on Functional Ingredients of Agricultural Residue,” a research institute based in China. Together, the universities will conduct “medicinal research and product development on agricultural botanical residues, including aerial parts of American ginseng and persimmon, mango and sugarcane leaves,” according to MTSU’s statement.

Jiagang Deng, who is a researcher and main editor for the book “Medicinal Studies of Agricultural Residues I,” spoke through MTSU associate professor and interpreter Iris Gao on “how very grateful he was with MTSU” for the partnership and how he and his team were excited for the “successful collaboration opportunities” that this agreement would provide, according to the press release from MTSU.

This success could already be witnessed by the hard work put in by the acting interpreter, Gao. Gao, who is an associate professor in the MTSU School of Agriculture and lead researcher with the International Ginseng Institute, has worked extensively with medicinal plants throughout her career and has published more than 20 peer-reviewed research articles on the subject. Because Gao has led research opportunities at MTSU before, she will be instrumental in the success of the collaboration.

Byrnes believes in the potential of this initiative.

“We’re excited about the opportunity of continued cooperation with you … (and) we look forward to educational opportunities for our faculty and students, and for economic opportunities that will arise with this,” he said in MTSU’s press release.

Both universities will be studying the biochemical and physiological effects of traditional medicine and contribute to the completion and publication of the book “Medicinal Plants in China and the United States.” The book, of which the rights of ownership will belong to both universities, will be funded for publication in each country.

The agreement will also allow for the short-term exchange of staff and postgraduate students to participate in the research.

MTSU alumnus Paul Martin Jr. believes in the program, saying in MTSU’s official statement that it is a strong “investment in time and money” for MTSU President Sydney McPhee, who regularly visits China to strengthen bonds.

“MTSU’s oldest China collaboration is one Dr. McPhee brought (originally),” Martin also remarked in the statement. “And the program is to the point where it offers academic and commercial opportunities – and MTSU’s a prime business area.”

Deng presented Byrnes with two containers of herbal tea from Guangxi as he thanked MTSU “for the opportunity for our faculty and students to visit MTSU” and that they “welcome you, your president and colleagues to visit our campus,” according to the press release.

This agreement is not the first partnership between the universities regarding traditional medicine. The partnership between MTSU and Guangxi University began in 2011 when a former governor of a Chinese province met with Gov. Bill Haslam and McPhee. The meeting resulted in an “exclusive relationship with the Guangxi Botanical Garden,” as McPhee described it, to research different drug and treatment possibilities deriving from traditional medicine.

The project began growing in 2013 when MTSU and state officials announced the MTSU Ginseng Initiative, which would allow the growth of ginseng at an MTSU farm. The collaboration would be between the Tennessee Center for Botanical Research Director Elliot Altman’s research team, the MTSU School of Agribusiness and Agriscience Director Warren Gill and MTSU Farm Laboratories Director Matthew Wade.

In 2017 MTSU was awarded a $148,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to “demonstrate the viability of cultivated ginseng in Tennessee from improved techniques reducing growing time, increasing propagation success and determining ideal farming techniques,” according to Gao, in an interview with WGNS Radio.

To contact News Editor Angele Latham, email

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