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New ARS Facility Dedicated in Colorado

By David Elstein
April 20, 2004

FORT COLLINS, Colo., April 20--The Agricultural Research Service dedicated a new research and administrative building today on the grounds of Colorado State University's (CSU) Natural Resources Research Center. The new facility is home to three ARS research laboratories: the Soil-Plant-Nutrient Research Unit, the Water Management Research Unit and the Great Plains Systems Research Unit. ARS is the chief scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"This building will allow ARS scientists to work in state-of-the-art laboratories on campus with their CSU collaborators," said ARS Acting Administrator Edward B. Knipling.

Some 120 ARS employees will work in the new 100,000-square-foot building. The employees previously worked in separate buildings throughout Fort Collins. In addition to the research staff, the new building houses employees of ARS' Northern Plains Area Office and the agency's new National Software Support Center.

The building is one of four constructed by the General Services Administration on the CSU campus for use by USDA and U.S. Department of Interior agencies that deal with natural resources issues.

Scientists in ARS' Soil-Plant-Nutrient Research Unit study ways to improve efficient use of plant nutrients in irrigation systems. They investigate how agricultural management practices affect nutrient cycling and plant nutrient uptake by crops, and they study agricultural systems to improve soil, water and air quality and protect the environment by lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

At the Water Management Unit, scientists study precision agriculture--the technique of farming specific areas of a field based on soil and water characteristics and weather. Farmers who use precision agriculture are likely to save money by the more timely and reduced application of both water and chemicals, resulting in improved water conservation, water quality protection and weed control.

Scientists in the Great Plains Systems Research Unit have developed several computer models to help farmers and others make decisions about farming practices. Agricultural producers and researchers can enter information about their farm, and the model will estimate possible outcomes on a wide range of topics. For example, the system will recommend how much fertilizer should be used to obtain optimal yields, or whether tillage or no-tillage systems would be best for that farm.

Other ARS labs located in Fort Collins, but not part of the new complex, include the National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation, the Sugarbeet Research Unit, and several researchers affiliated with ARS' Rangeland Resources Research Unit at Cheyenne, Wyo.