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Published July 17, 2014, 09:55 AM

Fargo 1 of 2 national finalists for genotype lab location

Fargo and Decatur, Ill., are the two finalists in a process to determine the location of a National Agriculture Genotyping Center, selected by the National Corn Growers Association. The NCGA is expected to do site visits in August, pick a site in September and have the facility up and running by early next year, according to the North Dakota Corn Growers Association, which organized the bid for the lab.

By: Mikkel Pates, Forum News Service

FARGO, N.D. — Fargo and Decatur, Ill., are the two finalists in a process to determine the location of a National Agriculture Genotyping Center, selected by the National Corn Growers Association. The NCGA is expected to do site visits in August, pick a site in September and have the facility up and running by early next year, according to the North Dakota Corn Growers Association, which organized the bid for the lab.

Richard Vierling, the NCGA research and development team head, says the research facility would involve some up-front investment, but would bring millions of dollars to either community’s economy. The new lab is supported through a public-private partnership involving the NCGA, as well as the Los Alamos National Lab and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, Mo.

If Fargo wins the bid, the center would be on the campus of North Dakota State University. The NDCGA, which is vying for the lab with the support of the congressional delegation, says the community’s advantages include NDSU and the Agricultural Research Service Red River Valley Agricultural Research Center, which together host 14 public crop breeding programs. NDSU has built an extensive new greenhouse and is completing construction and certification for its greenhouse lab, which can be used to study the most high-security crop diseases.

Greg LaPlante, research manager for the NDCGA, says the lab would probably involve three to seven employees in the first couple of years, but would ramp up after that. He says it would probably lease lab space in an ARS facility on the north side of campus, and perhaps expand into other facilities.

Decatur’s site would be at the Richland Community College campus, according to the Decatur Herald & Review newspaper.

Wherever it is located, the genotyping center would create tests that would allow farmers to monitor and detect corn diseases in one test. Current tests allow labs to identify only one or two of about 18 corn diseases at a time. The center’s mobile test kits would allow farmers and agronomists to take a leaf sample and identify diseases before symptoms are visible to the human eye, according to proponents of the center. Other tests developed would apply to other crops, as well as animals, with food safety applications.

NDCGA Executive Director Tom Lilja says North Dakota’s bid includes $2.3 million: $1 million from the North Dakota Corn Utilization Council; $200,000 from the North Dakota Soybean Council; $100,000 from the Agricultural Products Utilization Council; and an $800,000 request through the North Dakota State Department of Agriculture.

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