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ARS Celebrates North Dakota Research This Week

By Don Comis
July 21, 2004

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 21--North Dakota's rich agricultural research heritage is being highlighted this week at Agricultural Research Service (ARS) labs in Fargo and Mandan as part of ARS' 50th anniversary celebration. ARS is the chief scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The ARS Red River Valley Agricultural Research Center in Fargo held its event today. On Thursday, the Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory in Mandan will celebrate 90 years of USDA research there.

"Research at both of these facilities has helped farmers better manage the soil, control pests and improve yields with new varieties, among many other accomplishments," said ARS Administrator Edward B. Knipling. USDA began agricultural research in 1914 at Mandan to support family farmers settling the Plains region. The Fargo center is celebrating 40 years of research in the Red River Valley.

ARS scientists at Fargo breed new varieties of potatoes, sugar beets, sunflowers, wheat, barley and oats; improve tests for grain quality; study toxins in livestock and develop technologies for controlling insects and weeds. The center has 125 employees in three laboratories near the campus of North Dakota State University.

At the 2,400-acre Mandan facility, ARS scientists develop sustainable crop and livestock systems as well as technologies for biofuel production and forage breeding. The Mandan lab's "Friends & Neighbors Day" on Thursday will commemorate not only USDA's decades of research there, but also the 20-year relationship with North Dakota's Area IV Soil Conservation Districts, which lease a 463-acre farm for the Mandan scientists to perform field-sized research with modern farming equipment.

"Over the years, the work at the Mandan lab has been closely followed by farmers, particularly the research on finding the most successful crop sequences in no-till farming systems," said Knipling. "This and other work by Mandan scientists has been widely adopted by farmers in Northern Plains states."

Examples of ARS efforts to transfer its technology to farmers are the annual "Friends & Neighbors Day," which drew nearly 600 people last year, and the annual "Research Results and Technology Conference," which attracted more than 160 farmers and ranchers this year.

"Similarly, the Fargo center delivers its technology to agribusiness through events such as the annual 'Marketplace for Entrepreneurs,' where the center operates a booth highlighting its research and outreach activities," said Knipling. "Red River Valley farmers and related businesses depend on this research for their livelihood."

Speakers at today's ceremony at Fargo included Knipling; Will Blackburn, ARS Northern Plains Area director; Roger Johnson, North Dakota agriculture commissioner; and Patricia Jensen, North Dakota State University vice president and dean for agricultural affairs. Knipling, Blackburn and others are scheduled to speak at Mandan on Thursday.

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