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MTSU Partners with China to Develop New Ag Market

MTSU's Tennessee Center for Botanical Medicine Research is working with Guangxi Botanical Garden of Medicinal Plants in China to cultivate a new market for ginseng.

By Jason Zasky on May 29, 2014

A business partnership initiated a few years ago between Middle Tennessee State University and China is bearing new fruit. The Tennessee Center for Botanical Medicine Research at MTSU is working with Guangxi Botanical Garden of Medicinal Plants, based in Nanning, China, to cultivate ginseng in hopes of eventually exporting it to the country. The root is commonly added to tea by the Chinese for medicinal purposes.

“China is running out of the crop,” says Elliot Altman, director of the Tennessee Center for Botanical Medicine Research. “Tennessee has ideal climate and soil for growing ginseng, and it sells for about $650 a pound. We hope to eventually help Tennessee farmers grow the crop.”

The Guangxi Botanical Garden of Medicinal Plants provided MTSU with 40 of China’s favorite medicinal plants to start the process. If the university develops any new drugs from the plants, it will share the profits with the Chinese.

“China has used plants for medicine for 5,000 years, but MTSU has the capacity to screen and break down the plants even better than the Chinese to hopefully find even more exciting discoveries,” Altman says.

This latest endeavor is just another milestone in MTSU’s long history of doing agricultural research and studying its potential for the business market. The university has grown its enrollment in agriculture-based programs to 500 students, a record number for the university.

“We offer three majors – animal science, plant science and ag business – and we have several agriculture amenities, such as a campus dairy where milkings occur twice daily with many done by students,” says Warren Gill, director of MTSU’s School of Agribusiness and Agriscience. “We also have 100 animal science students studying horse science and even offer a master’s degree in it.”

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