The University of Florida adds a course on the production of medicinal plants

Sometimes a new industry begins to flourish before employers can hire enough qualified employees. This was the case for many employers in the herbal medicine industry, which includes crops like hemp, kava and kratom. So professors from two colleges at the University of Florida worked together to help meet that demand. with a new course.

Developed by the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) and the UF College of Pharmacy, the course addresses the skills required to help launch new emerging cultures. The labs taught students skills in propagation, germination, extraction and analysis and everything in between.

“Employers in emerging industries struggle to find employees who understand the production and extraction of plants for medical purposes,” says Brian Pearson, assistant professor at UF/IFAS who developed and taught the course. “There’s a significant lack of potential employees with this skill set, and that’s impacting producers.”

Driven by industry needs and student interest, Pearson and UF College of Pharmacy professor Chris McCurdy partnered to establish and teach the course. The partnership provided faculty expertise on both plant production and the medicinal side of the industry.

“UF is in a unique position to offer such a course because we have UF Health and UF/IFAS under one umbrella, which is a great strength,” McCurdy says. “Being able to offer the training in horticulture and cultivation would be something that could happen to any agricultural program, but adding an in-depth understanding of medicinal properties, compounds responsible for biological activity in animals and/or or humans is a unique opportunity that gives our students an edge over others in the field.

The research partnership between UF/IFAS and the Faculty of Pharmacy is well established. The two teams are already uniting on projects such as research into the chemistry and pharmacology of plant-derived chemicals with plant cultivation and cultivation techniques that influence the production of these chemicals. These cross-functional research projects help scientists understand the best ways to grow medicinal plants to benefit the farmers and consumers who will ultimately buy the products these plants will become.

“This work with UF/IFAS gives us the opportunity to really understand how to grow these plants as a crop that could benefit farmers in our state while helping to treat the people in our state who need this plant,” McCurdy says. “We use kratom in our research, but that might just be the tip of the iceberg for other projects with more herbal remedies.”

Crop diversification is important to farmers and sometimes helps replace other crops that suffer losses or decline in value due to market fluctuations.

“There have been downturns in crops that have a long heritage in Florida, and being able to support these new emerging industries that can help a grower’s bottom line is critical,” Pearson said.

Special thanks to Roseville Farms and AgriStarts, who organized tours of their facilities and plant products for use in the lab, which gave the students hands-on experience in the industry.

“We are truly grateful for the industry support we have received for this course,” Pearson said. “Students researched, provided the UF/IFAS extension to producers from the research they conducted while learning. The three missions of the Land Grant Mission worked together to make this course a huge success. »


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