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Published September 02, 2014, 12:47 PM

ND Corn Growers, delegation pushed NDSU, ARS advantages in successful bid for genotyping center

Fargo, N.D., has been selected by the National Corn Growers Association to receive a National Agricultural Genotyping Center. Operations are expected to start in October.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

FARGO, N.D. — Fargo, N.D., has been selected by the National Corn Growers Association to receive a National Agricultural Genotyping Center. Operations are expected to start in October.

The North Dakota Corn Growers Association organized the bid. The other finalist was Decatur, Ill.

Richard Vierling, NCGA research and development team head, says the research facility will involve some up-front investment, but will bring millions of dollars to the community. 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.

“This is a first-time-ever, huge step for a farmer-led association that gives growers more influence on research agendas,” Vierling says. “This can help growers increase production and lower costs. We’re really excited about Fargo and the commitment from the many forward-thinking people involved in this project. The commitment from North Dakota State University, North Dakota Corn Growers, (North Dakota) Gov. Jack Dalrymple, the state’s congressional delegation and many others really helped sell the plan to our team.”

On campus

The center will be on the campus of North Dakota State University. 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 will be used to study the most high-security crop diseases.

Greg LaPlante, research manager for 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 lease lab space in a U.S. Department of Agriculture ARS facility on the north side of campus, and perhaps expand into other facilities.

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 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 the proponents of the center. Other tests developed would apply to other crops, as well as animals, with food safety applications, as well.

Food safety issue

Doug Goehring, North Dakota agriculture commissioner, says the impact of the center will be “felt throughout the nation and around the world.” He says food safety will be enhanced by this new test, which will provide fast tracking of rapid test methods for pathogens in packaging. It also will provide avenues for research in animal agriculture, he adds.

U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., who promoted the Fargo site, hailed the state, federal and private collaborations. He says the kind of tests that will be available through the center would have been of great value in the peanut butter contamination episode several years back in the southern U.S.

NDCGA executive director Tom Lilja says North Dakota’s bid was more than $2 million. The major pieces of that are $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. Lilja says it involves state support, and key legislators have committed to working toward that in the 2015 legislative session.