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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

History
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NORTH CENTRAL AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH LABORATORY HISTORY


During the mid-1950’s, the long-standing USDA Bureau of Entomology and Plant Quarantine was reformed by separating its research and regulatory functions into the Entomology Research Division of the Agricultural Research Service and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). The director of the newly-minted Entomology Research Division was South Dakota State College alumnus Edward F. Knipling. Knipling’s vision was that entomology research had entered a new era in which the latest technology (chemosterilants, attractants, repellants, pheromones, insect pathogens, and genetic manipulation and mutation) would be used to reduce populations of economically-important insects to a level where it would be feasible to use sterile male insects to eradicate the pest populations as had been done with the screwworm of livestock. A spate of new entomology research laboratories (Brookings SD, Tifton GA, Columbia MO, Stoneville MS, and Gainsville FL) were proposed to carry out this ambitious project.

In June 1960, the U.S. Congress passed an appropriations bill that included funding for a Federal Insect Laboratory in Brookings South Dakota. The appropriation, sponsored by the late Karl Mundt, Senator from South Dakota, was in response to continued insect infestation problems faced by grain farmers in the north central region of the U.S.  Losses to insects in this region were estimated to total $752,000,000.00 each year. The main purpose of the NORTHERN GRAIN INSECTS RESEARCH LABORATORY was to reduce losses to grain crops by insect infestation. Insects targeted for research included: corn borer, wireworm, rootworm, corn earworm, grasshopper, cut worm, aphid, army worm, and two plant diseases thought to be transmitted by insects: barley yellow dwarf and virus yellow of flax (Brookings Register, 20 March 1960; 15 June 1960; 3 July 1960; 31 July 1960).

Construction work started on the main laboratory building in July 1960 and was completed in July 1961. Additional work on greenhouse and headhouse facilities was also started in July 1961.

The insect research conducted during the early years at NGIRL, as well as at other research facilities, indicated that problems in controlling and eradicating insect pests were very complex. Over time, research at the NGIRL gradually focused upon corn rootworms and small grain cereal aphids (and aphid-vectored disease). Research in these economically-important pests was augmented by the addition of a world-class insect rearing facility to the NGIRL in the mid 1980’s.

It is interesting to note that the original appropriation that funded the Northern Grain Insects Research Laboratory in June 1960 also funded the purchase of a Soil and Water Conservation Research Farm near Madison, South Dakota. Research at this farm concentrated on the evaluation of erosion of different soil types, tillage practices to conserve soil and water, efficient crop production methods, and modeling plant-insect interactions. Several USDA-ARS soil and water researchers (agronomy and ag engineering) were housed at the SDSU campus during the 1960’s and early 70’s. This ARS soil and water research and staff were later transferred to the ARS North Central Soil Conservation Research Laboratory in Morris MN. The Madison farm was sold in 1987 and a new Eastern South Dakota Soil and Water Research Farm (located 1 mile north of the Northern Grain Insects Research Laboratory and the South Dakota State University campus) was purchased.

 

In the spring of 1993, the Northern Grain Insects Research Laboratory staff, in conjunction with the Northern Plains Area Associate Director Will Blackburn, developed a laboratory strategic plan:

 

Vision Statement

Environmentally and Economically Sustainable Agriculture Systems

 

Mission Statement

The Mission of the North Central Agricultural Research Laboratory is to develop, evaluate, and transfer sustainable production and bioprocessing systems that enhance environmental quality and provide profitability for agriculture with emphasis on integrated pest and crop management and agricultural product development.

 

Strategic Issues

  1. Develop management strategies for major pests of cereals and associated crops
  2. Integrate pest and crop management information into on-farm decision support systems
  3. Develop cropping systems for sustainable agriculture

The NORTH CENTRAL AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH LABORATORY (recently renamed from NGIRL) continues to grow and expand today. With the addition of new scientists with new disciplines, future research at NCARL will continue to change and adapt to the dynamic agricultural industry. Construction on a new laboratory wing and technology transfer area began in Spring 2004 and was completed in early 2006.  The lab wing provides much needed lab and office space for growing research needs, and the technology transfer area provides a means of sharing research with customers.


Last Modified: 2/16/2006