NC State University Plants for Human Health Institute
Through groundbreaking, transdisciplinary discovery and outreach, North Carolina State University’s Plants for Human Health Institute (PHHI) is pioneering a dramatic shift in the way the American public views and uses plant-food crops as sources of nutrients and flavorful calories to powerful resources for components that protect and enhance human health.
PHHI is a leading institution at the NC Research Campus sharing 100,000 square feet of office and laboratory space with the Dole Nutrition Research Laboratory. PHHI is a leader in initiating collaborations working closely with campus partners like the Appalachian State University Human Performance Laboratory and the Dole Nutrition Laboratory.
PHHI is also a founding partner of the Plant Pathways Elucidation Project (P2EP). P2EP combines the expertise of the campus’ leading academic and corporate scientists along with the talent of students in high school through the doctoral level. Their mission is to map plant pathways in crops like strawberries, blueberries, oats and broccoli and establish a bioinformatic knowledgebase of genetic data.
Through integrating research in metabolomics, biochemistry, pharmacogenomics, plant breeding and postharvest attributes, PHHI is working to develop fruits and vegetables with enhanced health benefits and to introduce new or under-appreciated crops and products. One benefit of this research is to allow consumers to make proactive, responsible dietary choices that benefit their own and their family’s health. Another benefit is to increase the local and national competitiveness of agricultural families, particularly in North Carolina, by improving the health-promoting potential of fruits and vegetables through plant breeding, horticulture and postharvest technologies.
Improving the health-enhancing properties of food crops
This research is aimed at discovering how biologically-active natural plant compounds confer protection against chronic diseases and enhance overall human performance. Specifically elucidated are the ways in which natural dietary mixtures of plant compounds enhance vigor and endurance and allow a consumer to take more control of health for themselves and their families.
Increasing farm sustainability and profitability
Multidisciplinary research teams are developing new plant varieties and production systems that emphasize product quality, efficiency, availability and environmental stewardship. Research is providing genetic solutions to prevalent pests and diseases, reducing pesticide usage and delivering highly competitive food products that are nutritious and delicious. PHHI scientists grow and test field crops in the PHHI greenhouse facility and at the Piedmont Research Station, located outside of Salisbury, NC.
The PHHI operates three research greenhouses and eight growth chambers. Use of these facilities has included strawberry breeding and disease screening, broccoli breeding, screening natural pesticides for phytotoxicity and growing crops as varied as oats, wheat, rice, Arabidopsis and turf. N.C. State researchers have first priority use of the available space, but space is also available for other educational institutions, corporate partners and private industry. Daily oversight of plant care needs and facility maintenance are provided. For more information about available space and lease rates, contact Greenhouse Operations Technician Jack Lotito.
Developing postharvest applications to improve health benefits of food
Post-harvest research uses storage and other applications following harvest to improve the phytochemical content of food crops. By looking at the profiles of plants after treatment, the use of these strategies can help tailor diets for prevention of chronic diseases.
NC State Extension
NC State Extension employees are a multi-disciplinary group of professionals who deliver the practical applications of PHHI’s science-based research to the farmers and citizens of North Carolina. As a group their expertise spans farm business management, communications and marketing and nutrition and STEM education. By securing grants and partnerships, Cooperative Extension builds additional educational resources and relationships that enhance the profitability of North Carolina’s agriculture industry and promotes the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables across the state.
NC State Industry Expansion Solutions
The NC State Industry Expansion Solutions is not a part of PHHI but it is also located on the NC Research Campus. As a part of NC State University, IES provides education and technical assistance to businesses and industries across the state. IES works one-on-one with small- and medium-sized manufacturers to help them stay competitive, save jobs and increase profits by making necessary improvements and employing modern practices and new technology.