North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University will offer a new Ph.D. in agriculture and environmental sciences through its College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences.

The UNC Board of Governors approved the degree Jan. 21. Pending approval by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the program will enroll its first students in the fall 2021 semester.

Graduates of the program will provide leadership and research-based solutions for the agriculture industry as it grows to sustainably meet the world’s increasing need for food, fiber and other products. The demand for food is expected to increase at least 2.5 times by 2050 as the global population approaches 10 billion, according to the United Nations Environment Programme.

“Our new Ph.D. will help the agricultural industry meet the challenge of feeding and clothing the world’s growing population,” said CAES Dean Mohamed Ahmedna, Ph.D. “Cutting across our four academic departments, our program will continue our tradition of integration and innovation in teaching and research.”

Agriculture, including food, fiber and forestry, contributes $91.8 billion annually to the North Carolina economy and employs more than 17% of the state’s workforce, making it the state’s largest industry, according to the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Agriculture also is the nation’s largest employer, accounting for more than 21 million jobs, the USDA reports.

The university plans to enroll 10 students in the program’s first year and add five more students in each subsequent year so that the program numbers 25 students in its fourth year. Students will specialize in one of six concentrations: food science, human nutrition and health, sustainable agriculture and environmental sciences, agribusiness and applied economics, agricultural and extension education, or sustainable animal production and health.

“Agriculture is constantly changing, and it needs professionals who understand and put into practice the latest information about nutrition, safety, environmental impacts and other issues,” said Antoine Alston, Ph.D., CAES associate dean for academic studies. “Our new Ph.D. will prepare our students to thrive as leaders in this dynamic and essential industry.”

The Ph.D. in agriculture and environmental sciences is N.C. A&T’s 11th doctoral program. The university offers 23 doctoral concentrations with eight in applied science and technology and six in agriculture and environmental sciences.