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Watercolor rendering of the new NBCL.
Watercolor rendering of the new NBCL.


Groundbreaking for New Biological Control Lab

By Jim Core
October 15, 2002

STONEVILLE, Miss., Oct. 15--The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service today hosted a groundbreaking ceremony here for a new facility where researchers will develop methods for rearing, storing and using beneficial organisms against agricultural and urban pests.

The National Biological Control Laboratory (NBCL) will cost about $16.5 million to build and is scheduled to open in December 2003. Research at the facility will focus on developing beneficial predators, parasites and microbes that farmers can use to control pests.

"Biocontrol makes up less than 1 percent of the pest control market in the United States, despite its proven value," said Dr. Joe Jen, undersecretary for Research Education and Economics. "The researchers hope to develop practical methods for producing and distributing control agents in quantities large enough to have significant impacts."

Jen and ARS Acting Administrator Ed Knipling participated in the ceremony, and U.S. Senator Thad Cochran was the keynote speaker. The 55,000-square-foot building will accommodate 50 scientists and support personnel. It is uniquely designed to facilitate interaction among scientists from numerous disciplines in basic and applied research. NBCL will be the first facility in the world to have such a wide combination of scientific specializations for fully integrated research in biocontrol technology.

NBCL will have one wing reserved for microorganisms such as fungi or bacteria and another for macroorganisms such as nematodes and insects. The lab's wings are designed to prevent accidental release of these organisms. Additional space is provided for two pilot plants where scientists can cooperate with public and private organizations to test the practical applications of rearing techniques and foster commercial production, especially with small, start-up companies.

Only organisms that have been approved for release in the United States by federal and state officials will be propagated and studied there.

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