The celebration was virtual, but the sentiment was no less important: Washington State University has a new home for collaborative agricultural research. The new Plant Sciences Building is a state-of-the-art home on the Pullman campus for supporting regional and global agriculture.
The virtual dedication was featured in a video (check that out at the end of this story) that features university and college leaders, students, and agriculture and legislative partners who helped bring the new building to life.
This latest addition to the V. Lane Rawlins Research and Education Complex is a $66 million building funded by the Washington state Legislature. Construction started in 2018 and wrapped up in fall of this year.
The four-story building features 95,000 square feet — more than 2 acres — of space dedicated to food and agriculture work. The focus for work on the site is Washington’s $51 billion food and agriculture industry, and the new building provides a modern research venue for faculty, staff and students in the Institute of Biological Chemistry, WSU’s Molecular Plant Science Program and portions of the departments of Horticulture, Plant Pathology, and Crop and Soil Sciences. These programs were previously housed in Johnson Hall, built in 1959 and remodeled in 1971.
André-Denis Wright, Dean of the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences, notes that the facility is “a massive upgrade in the quality of our lab space. The labs we have now were built decades ago and were made for a single research program. Now, we can host CAHNRS faculty from four departments and foster research that is both applied and basic — from finding out how plants grow and interact with soil, to addressing specific challenges in agriculture.”
Partners in progress
CAHNRS drew on participation from members of the state’s grain, tree fruit, wine, grape, potato, dairy, beef and raspberry industries; the Washington State Department of Agriculture; and the Washington Farm Bureau in development of the new facility.
“This isn't just a building — it’s a brain trust for the future of Washington agriculture,” says Vicky Scharlau, executive director of the Washington Winegrowers Association. “By understanding basic, fundamental plant processes, people here today are creating the foundation for the agriculture of tomorrow.”
The new Plant Sciences Building was designed by Seattle-based LMN Architects and built by Skanska. Based in open-concept laboratories designed to foster collaboration, scientists working in the new facility will use new technologies to investigate a wide range of agriculture science areas.