As a rapidly drying climate threatens food and agriculture systems around the globe, Arizona's agriculture industry will need innovative solutions to continue producing more food using less water.
The Presidential Advisory Commission on the Future of Agriculture & Food Production in a Drying Climate was established by President Robbins in December 2022. Drawing from experts across the University, and from the agriculture, food production, and water industries throughout the state and beyond, the Commission aimed to produce a set of recommendations on concrete steps we can take to help make Arizona a global leader in creating and applying transformational technologies and climate-resilient sustainable agricultural and food production practices, in partnership with the desert agriculture industry.
Create an Institute for Sustainable Food, Water and Agriculture Systems (ISFWAS)
The University lacks an integrated, interdisciplinary, and solutions-oriented unit that is centered at the intersection of food, water, and agriculture systems. The ISFWAS will be a flagship University Institute that spans the technical, policy, and human dimensions of agriculture, food, and water systems. Its purpose will be to realize synergies that occur when people work across disciplines and with diverse community and regional partners to develop system-level solutions.
Create a Center for Soil Health (CSH)
Maintaining and restoring soil health through regenerative practices is a critical issue facing the agriculture industry. The CSH will integrate current research capacity to address major research and development goals. A distinguishing feature of the CSH will be the integration of producers within the organizational and decision-making structure.
Create technology and innovation hubs at the Maricopa (MAC), Yuma (YAC) and Campus Agricultural Centers (CAC), and Biosphere 2 (B2)
The time periods between idea generation and solution implementation, and between solution implementation and adoption, are frequently problematic. UArizona can help reduce these lags in several ways. The proposed innovation hubs at MAC, YAC, CAC, and B2 will be places where University faculty work collaboratively with external partners including growers, ranchers, and industry to develop, evaluate, and advance innovative technologies toward commercial application. The innovation hubs will also provide significant educational opportunities for students through research, entrepreneurial activities, and internships to advance their workforce readiness.
Expand partnerships with Tribal agriculture
Tribal communities have unparalleled knowledge of agriculture in our arid environment and bring highly valuable expertise in sustainable agriculture practices. It is critically important that UArizona works closely with Native Nations, honoring the fundamental principles of Tribal Consultation in accordance with University Tribal Consultation Policy. The Commission emphasizes the importance of building and maintaining reciprocal relationships that are focused on listening, building trust, and knowledge sharing.
Establish new and strengthen existing collaborations with institutions in arid regions around the world
Drylands account for 40% of the world’s land surface and 60% of its food production. Arizona’s challenges are inextricably linked to drying regions worldwide and UArizona can enhance its global leadership in this area. The Commission recommends that UArizona develop and implement a high level, coordinated initiative to advance strategic partnerships with non-U.S. institutions focused on the critical issues of water, agriculture, and food sustainability.
The Commission also identified four core areas in which UArizona can provide leadership:
producing and providing research-based solutions
Education & Training
developing future leaders, thinkers and doers
Extension & Community Connections
engaging with stakeholders to jointly arrive at solutions
spearheading efforts to ensure resilience to future climate, economic, and policy shocks.
Fulfilling Our Land-Grant Mission
Vincente Santos, research technician in the field at the Maricopa Agricultural Center for University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
As Arizona’s land-grant university, we are driven to do great things. It’s our passion to solve some of the Grand Challenges facing our state and the world.
But what makes us unique is how we do it. We live our purpose, mission and values every day.
"As Arizona’s land-grant university, the University of Arizona has the unique capacity and mission to develop and implement potential solutions to grand challenges such as this. With this report, the commission has taken a crucial first step. The proposed actions draw on the university’s combination of expertise, connections, and sense of responsibility. Now comes the hard work of acting on these recommendations."
—UArizona President Robert C. Robbins
- Parker Antin, associate vice president for research for the Division of Agriculture, Life and Veterinary Sciences, and Cooperative Extension
- Jim Buizer, senior strategy adviser to the senior vice president for Research, Innovation and Impact
- Sharon Collinge, director of Arizona Institute for Resilience
- N. Levi Esquerra, senior vice president of Native American Advancement & Tribal Engagement
- Luisa Ikner, assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Science
- Sharon Megdal, director of the Water Resources Research Center
- Kim Patten, associate vice president for Research Development
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