After nearly a decade of planning, fundraising and construction, the North Carolina State University Plant Sciences Building will be formally dedicated on April 12. Construction is nearly complete for the $160.2 million, 185,000 square foot, five-story building. Researchers will begin moving in come March.
The impressive building is located on North Carolina State’s Centennial Campus in Raleigh. Both the building and the plant sciences initiative itself are unique; there is nothing quite like it anywhere else on the globe. Hopefully, the initiative will become better known, beyond the North Carolina agriculture community, because it may well be one of the most significant efforts in agriculture so far this century. It should make a real dent in the effort to feed the expected global population of 10 billion people by 2050 — that often cited United Nations statistic.
The plant sciences initiative, or PSI, is unique because it will bring together experts from across disciplines. Agronomists, entomologists, computer scientists, economists, engineers, and experts in other fields will work together in the same building as teams. Their research won’t be siloed or separate; it will be collaborative. The building and laboratory space is designed to encourage that collaboration.
The building is 21st century, state of the art in every way. It includes one-of-a-kind growth chambers, 25-foot rooftop greenhouses that can house any crop, and several core labs that specialize in mass spectrometry, measuring volatiles, or chemical compounds that plants use to communicate, and machinery that can quickly sequence not only plants, but the microbes and other living organisms on them.
Research will focus on crop stress protection, microbiomes, and new plant varieties.
Adrian Percy, the inaugural executive director of the PSI, says the initiative is seen as a game changer that will lead to high-quality research outcomes and eventually the commercialization of valuable new technologies for farmers.
“The Plant Sciences Building is truly a fantastic facility, and it will attract top quality and highly talented scientists from near and far who will want to work there,” Percy says.
There is much anticipation and excitement about the upcoming April 12 formal dedication of the new building. I have written about the PSI since 2014 and have watched the construction progress on my visits to North Carolina State’s Centennial campus over the years. It will be great to finally walk the halls in person.
Moreover, it will be interesting to watch the progress the PSI will make in collaborative agricultural research in the years ahead. I am confident the contributions will be real, lasting and significant. I just hope the effort gets noticed beyond the North Carolina agricultural community.