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New North Carolina facility called a prize asset for ag scienceNew North Carolina facility called a prize asset for ag science

Four years after groundbreaking for NCSU Plant Sciences building, ground was broken for 51,296 square foot plant research facility.

John Hart

September 12, 2023

3 Min Read
NCSU plant improvement groundbreaking
Breaking ground for the plant improvement facility at the Lake Wheeler Road Field Laboratory in Raleigh Sept. 6 are from left, U.S. Rep. Wiley Nickel; former U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge; U.S. Rep. Deborah Ross; NCSU CALS Dean Garey Fox; USDA ARS Southeast Area Director Archie Tucker; Chavonda Jacobs-Young, USDA Chief scientist and undersecretary for research, education, and economics; NCSU Chancellor Randy Woodson; USDA ARS Administrator Simon Liu; USDA ARS Plant Physiologist Ken Burkey; and Muquarrab Qureshi, location coordinator, USDA-ARS, Raleigh.John Hart

At a Glance

  • Facility to house 30 to 40 ARS and NCSU scientists researching maize, soybean, wheat, cotton, and peanuts.

When ground was broken for the North Carolina State University Plant Sciences building in 2019, the idea of a plant improvement facility at the Lake Wheeler Field Road Laboratory just five miles from downtown Raleigh and the NCSU campus was still in its infancy stage. 

But on Sept. 6, exactly four years to the date of the 2019 groundbreaking ceremony for the Plant Sciences Building on the NCSU Centennial Campus, ground was broken for the new plant improvement facility at NCSU’s Lake Wheeler farm.  

USDA’s Agricultural Research Service and NCSU’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences hosted the groundbreaking ceremony for the new building, expected to be completed 900 days later. 

“Today is a great day because we mark the idea that is one step closer to having a plant improvement facility become a reality. When we get this completed, these facilities are going to be a prize asset for ag science,” said Garey Fox, the new dean of NCSU’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.  

The facility will house approximately 30 to 40 scientists from ARS and NCSU, who will conduct research on maize, soybean, wheat, cotton, and peanuts. When completed, the 51,296 square-foot, single-story building will feature processing areas, office and research spaces organized in wings corresponding to their respective crops. Simon Liu, the ARS administrator, said the building will cost $38 million and will house groundbreaking agricultural research. 

In his comments, Fox said the facility will be critical for the long-term success of agriculture, not only for North Carolina, but for the region and the world. Fox said the facility underscores ARS’s commitment to support agricultural research that addresses the challenges impacting both farmers and consumers. He said the new building will benefit the entire public. 

“That’s why this partnership is so important between N.C. State and the USDA ARS. N.C. State has been working in the plant sciences for a really long time, 130 years since our founding. We focus on anything dealing with agriculture, from the seed to harvest to supply chain to consumption to post consumption. We published research in a lot of different areas. This is going to elevate us to an even higher level because of this partnership with ARS,” Fox said. 

“As the new dean, I will promise you that N.C. State will continue to support this partnership. We will be able to tackle the grand challenges if we combine the plant sciences building with the plant improvement facility and the other upgrades that are coming to our Lake Wheeler Road Field Lab,” Fox said.   

“We are so proud of the partnership we have at NC State with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture to create four field labs and 18 research stations across the entire state of North Carolina. You think about the geographic diversity we have in those research stations; we can do research that no other place can do. The Plant Improvement facility with ARS takes us to a new height.” 

At the groundbreaking ceremony, Chavonda Jacobs-Young, USDA chief scientist and undersecretary for research, education, and economics, said “this investment in modern scientific infrastructure reflects USDA’s commitment to pioneering research and cutting-edge solutions that ensure growers can be more productive, profitable and resilient. It also underscores the importance of our partnership with NC State to bring state-of-the-art scientific computing to this campus that will help expand the frontier of agricultural science.” 

Other dignitaries who spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony were NCSU Chancellor Randy Woodson; U.S. Rep. Deborah Ross (D-NC-02); U.S. Rep. Wiley Nickel (D-NC-13); Archie Tucker, ARS Director of Southeast Area; Kent Burkey, Plant Physiologist, ARS Plant Science Research Unit; and Muquarrab Qureshi, Location Coordinator, USDA-ARS, Raleigh Location.

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About the Author(s)

John Hart

Associate Editor, Southeast Farm Press

John Hart is associate editor of Southeast Farm Press, responsible for coverage in the Carolinas and Virginia. He is based in Raleigh, N.C.

Prior to joining Southeast Farm Press, John was director of news services for the American Farm Bureau Federation in Washington, D.C. He also has experience as an energy journalist. For nine years, John was the owner, editor and publisher of The Rice World, a monthly publication serving the U.S. rice industry.  John also worked in public relations for the USA Rice Council in Houston, Texas and the Cotton Board in Memphis, Tenn. He also has experience as a farm and general assignments reporter for the Monroe, La. News-Star.

John is a native of Lake Charles, La. and is a  graduate of the LSU School of Journalism in Baton Rouge.  At LSU, he served on the staff of The Daily Reveille.

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