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Renovated USDA Research Building to ReopenBy Rosalie Marion Bliss
January 23, 2002
After more than five years of work, a newly renovated research facility focusing on managing plant diseases is being dedicated today at the Agricultural Research Service's Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center (BARC).
The renovated facility, Building 004, was built in 1936 and houses the Molecular Plant Pathology Laboratory (MPPL). The lab's scientists primarily develop methods for detecting and controlling crop-destroying microbes. In one project, they're mapping the genome of a microorganism that causes corn stunt disease.
Although renovations to Building 004 were begun in 1997, it was ravaged by fire that destroyed the roof and led to extensive water damage just two months short of completion in January 1998. Building 004 was then gutted and a steel-framed roof installed, but last September the roof was damaged again, this time by a tornado.
Accomplishments of scientists in the MPPL include the first report that a plant infection could actually improve aesthetic qualities and boost the commercial value of poinsettias, a high-grossing ornamental crop worth more than $200 million annually. The ARS scientists also are improving disease and pest resistance in sugarbeet through discovery of the underlying mechanisms of resistance and through discovery of insect-resistant traits. They are now identifying organisms responsible for new disease outbreaks that threaten America's prized elms.
Scheduled to attend the dedication are Congressman Steny H. Hoyer, Acting ARS Administrator Edward B. Knipling, and other U.S. Department of Agriculture officials.
After its inception in 1910, BARC grew to become the world's largest agricultural research facility. It currently comprises 6,700 acres that are home to the largest number of agricultural researchers in the country. ARS is the USDA's principal scientific research agency.