NDSU breaks ground on greenhouse, beef facility

FARGO, N.D. -- North Dakota State University conducted a "groundbreaking" for two major agricultural research facilities on May 30 -- a beef cattle research center and a greenhouse facility.

FARGO, N.D. -- North Dakota State University conducted a "groundbreaking" for two major agricultural research facilities on May 30 -- a beef cattle research center and a greenhouse facility.

The projects have been the highest priority for a decade for the State Board of Agricultural Research and Education, says Jerry Effertz, the group's president and a cattleman from Velva, N.D. Effertz emphasizes that "This is just a beginning," and initial phases for keeping NDSU's ag research on par with the nation and world. He says the greenhouse project supports the livestock industry, with which the state's crops are "enmeshed."

North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven and scores of state legislators and leaders in the state's agricultural establishment brought the ceremonies indoors to the NDSU Alumni Center because of some welcome rain, but speakers for the two events were all smiles about the promise. Hoeven praised NDSU and the SBARE for "not shot-gunning" the requests, and for visionary planning.

D.C. Coston, NDSU vice president for Agriculture and University Extension, called the facilities the first steps to close a "critical infrastructure gap," for the university.

NDSU President Joseph Chapman says agriculture and NDSU have been rated as two important factors in the state's economic future. He says it is important if NDSU is to continue its ranking in the top 25 national ag research institutions and in the top 10 when the list is "normalized for size." He says the greenhouse is especially important to replace facilities that have been "drifting toward aged."


Here's a closer look at each facility:

The beef facility

Phase I of the beef facility was paid for by $600,000 in appropriation, including $500,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and $100,000 from the experiment station.

Phase II will be another $2 million to $2.4 million. NDSU is approaching the Legislature for this entire amount, which is largely for equipment, and is expected to be completed in 2009.

The facility is SBARE's number-two priority for state capital funding. It supports a beef industry which has 1.8 million cattle in total and supplies about $1 billion to the state's economy. The facility will work with NDSU's Beef Systems Center of Excellence and will have connections with the North Dakota Natural Beef brand, which is under development.

Effertz says the facility will replace an existing research facility that has been "distressing to see," because of its age and condition. The "old research" facility, built in the 1950s, will be torn down and the new facility will be constructed this summer. Part of the work in the facility will be for cow feeding trials, and part for the "background" and finish cattle trials.

Greg Lardy says the facility sophisticated will be supplied with equipment to measure individual feed intake, even with cattle housed within pens. It will allow tests on ways to cut feed costs - "particularly important with high feed prices, which we expect to continue" - and improve efficiency and determine differences based on breeding. Part of this monitoring will be done through ear tag identification of individual animals.

The greenhouse


The greenhouse is SBARE's No. 1 priority to the state. The North Dakota Legislature has authorized $14 million in spending for phase I, including $9 million for the project over the past two legislative sessions and "the opportunity" to $5 million in private match funding, Coston notes.

The fundraising committees have so far come up with about $2.5 million in private commitments for the greenhouse. Grafton acknowledges that part of the fundraising could be "naming rights" for the greenhouse, a concept that has been suggested to some donors but so far hasn't been completed. (Hoeven notes that the $7 million in the 2007 Legislature was part of a $42 million appropriation for renewable energy.)

Phase I includes a "headhouse" and four glass greenhouses. When completed, the greenhouse complex will allow NDSU to compete for more work in transgenic crop research, among other things. The North Dakota Wheat Commission was acknowledged as the largest match donor for phase I, kicking in $250,000. The wheat industry contributed about $7.5 billion in economic impact in the state in 2007, accounting for the record-high prices and multiplier factors.

Effertz says it is just part of a project that was initially slated at $30 million. He says the complex is "more than just a greenhouse" because it will help "provide food to the world."

Coston says that project keeps NDSU research as a huge economic engine. He notes that Glenn, a hard red spring wheat variety released a few years ago, has now hit stride by accounting for 20 percent of the wheat in the state and $300 million in sales in 2007. He says the greenhouse will lead to "faster and better" research.

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