Plant Growth Facility Named for Famous
Scientific Team By Ben Hardin
New state-of-the-art research facilities now stand on the site
at the University of
MissouriColumbia, where an Agricultural Research Service scientist and
his wife worked side-by-side for more than 40 years. The Ernie R. and Lotti
M.S. Sears Plant Growth Facility, on the university's central campus, will be
formally dedicated May 21.
ARS and university researchers are continuing their cooperative
research in the new facility, which features growth chambers, 12
state-of-the-art greenhouses, and cold storage for seeds, seed drying and
Where the new complex stands and where the Sears' Greenhouse
Number 10 once stood, ARS cytogeneticist Ernest R. Sears--in the
1950s--transferred a gene for resistance to leaf rust disease from a wild grass
species into the wheat variety Chinese Spring.
That feat led to rust-resistant wheats around the world and
increased annual revenue for the wheat farmers of Kansas alone by an estimated
$30 million. It was science's first example of chromosome engineering,
incorporating a small segment of a chromosome from one plant species into
another. This is one of many contributions that Sears and his wife Lotti made
After obtaining his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1936,
Ernest worked for ARS at the University of Missouri until the day he died in
1991. He and Lotti, also a highly respected cytogeneticist, produced a series
of wheat lines called aneuploids that they used to analyze individual
chromosomes for useful genes. In similar research, Lotti and graduate student
Suzanne Lee-Chen helped initiate genetic mapping research of the plant
Attending the dedication ceremony on May 21 will be Sears family
members, keynote speaker and
Nobel Laureate Norman
Borlaug and other notables who worked with Ernest and Lotti Sears.
Ernest Sears was among the first inductees in the ARS Hall of
Fame. He also received other prestigious awards including the Hoblitzelle Award
for Research in Agricultural Sciences and the Wolf Prize in Agriculture.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.
Scientific contact: Perry Gustafson, ARS
Research, Columbia, Mo., phone (573) 882-7318, fax 875-5359,