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Ground Broken for U.S. Arid-Land Agricultural Research Center

By David Elstein
February 20, 2004

MARICOPA, Ariz., Feb. 20–Federal officials broke ground today outside Phoenix for a new $28 million U.S. Arid-Land Agricultural Research Center. Upon completion in 2006, it will house 30 scientists plus support staff for the Agricultural Research Service, chief scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The ARS facility will be co-located with the University of Arizona's Maricopa Agricultural Center.

Participants at today's event included ARS officials from Arizona and California. "When completed, this new center will be one of the premier agricultural research centers in the world dealing with issues of arid and semiarid lands," said Antoinette A. Betschart, director for ARS' Pacific West Area.

The new facility will combine in one center ARS' U.S. Water Conservation Research Laboratory and Western Cotton Research Laboratory, both currently located in Phoenix.

Scientists at ARS' U.S. Water Conservation Lab conduct research on how crops will perform in the future as atmospheric carbon dioxide levels increase. They were among the first to show that elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide increases yields of field crops. They have also made significant advancements in terms of water measurement methods, automation of irrigation canal systems and on-farm water management technologies.

Researchers at ARS' Western Cotton Research Laboratory focus on developing ways to help farmers grow cotton more efficiently and minimize damage from diseases and pests. For more than 30 years, this laboratory has been a leader in development of integrated management techniques to control the pink bollworm, one of the world's most devastating cotton pests. Research findings from the lab have played a key role in the 90 percent reduction in pesticides used against this pest.

Completion of the new facility will enable ARS researchers to work more closely with the Maricopa Agricultural Center's researchers and extension faculty.