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Research Project: A Systematic Research Approach to Responsive Agriculture for the Advancement of Health

Location: Responsive Agricultural Food Systems Research

Project Number: 3093-51530-001-001-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Sep 15, 2021
End Date: Apr 30, 2026

A need exists for adapting agriculture and food supply systems to reduce the major gaps that exists in nutrition research at the critical intersection of responsive agriculture, quality food production, human nutrition and health; to lower rates of diet-related chronic disease and reduce health care costs of Americans. Diet quality affects the health of all Americans, through maintenance of essential functions and by lowering the risk of chronic disease. Agriculture supplies the basic ingredients for our food system providing the basis for human diets which directly impacts human health and chronic disease risk. The estimated cost of chronic disease in the U.S. is as high as $1 trillion annually. Obesity, the most prevalent chronic disease, affects approximately 40% of the population, and is causative for other morbidities including diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers. The criticality of the human diet has been highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic. While impacting all segments of society, some have been shown to be of greater risk than others, particularly those with underlying health concerns such as obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Thus, the primary goal is to conduct multi-discipline research that examines: A. Human Nutrition and Public Health - Identify how diet can reduce chronic disease. It will include research on population responses, how epigenetics affects the health/nutrition relationships, and how to individualize/personalize nutrition guidance and programs with the goal of preventing chronic disease. It will assist in the understanding of the diet-disease relationship and will develop biomarkers that connect diet and disease risk. The ultimate goal is to reduce health care costs through developing evidence-based food and nutrition guidance. B. Production Agriculture for Health - Identify how production agriculture can support human health by increasing the health promoting qualities of food and agricultural products. Emphasis will be placed on developing beef production systems that produce healthy products and enhance environmental sustainability, and on the development of fruits and vegetables that promote health. C. Environment – Systems approaches to identify how agriculture can support environmental quality and make agriculture more resilient to changes in the environment by efforts to increase and sustain carbon sequestration, reduce greenhouse gas production, increase water use efficiency and diminish negative impacts on water quality, and enhance the options for creation of renewable energy. Emphasis will be placed on quantifying the interactions of genetics, environment, and management on food production. D. Consumer and Society –Identify how consumer behavior science and behavior economics impacts the food systems, and how to fast track adoption of new systems by producers, processors, or consumers by identifying what consumers want and what is their acceptance. Emphases will be placed on underserved populations. E. Other research objectives as mutually agreed to by both parties.

To achieve this objective, Texas A&M AgriLife Research and the USDA, Agricultural Research Service (the parties) will create a new collaboration focusing on four major themes: Human Nutrition and Public Health; Production Agriculture for Health; Environment; and Consumer and Society. The parties will use its resources and access to USDA, ARS and Texas A&M Agrilife researchers and scientists located in Texas and across the country to engage in a variety of research approaches including but not limited to: big data, evidence synthesis and evidence evaluation, epigenetics, genetics, animal and plant breeding and physiology, ecology, food production management, behavioral sciences, and economics to achieve the overall research objective.