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Key USDA Grain Lab in Kansas to be Modernized

By Erin Peabody
January 13, 2005

WASHINGTON, Jan. 13—A major U.S. Department of Agriculture research center, where scientists study cereal grains as they move from farm to table, is celebrating the start of major renovations today.

The Grain Marketing and Production Research Center (GMPRC) in Manhattan, Kan., is operated by the Agricultural Research Service, USDA's chief in-house scientific research agency. GMPRC conducts much of its research in cooperation with Kansas State University, also located in Manhattan.

The roughly $14.8-million renovation is expected to make the aging facility state-of-the-art again. Four phases of planned updates will provide the main building with new heating and cooling plants, modern electrical and plumbing systems and a new roof. Modifications to make the building fully handicapped-accessible are also scheduled.

"The center's 29 scientists are dedicated to solving problems relating to the production, harvesting, storage and marketing of the nation's staple grains—like wheat, corn and sorghum," said ARS Administrator Edward B. Knipling.

Strategically located in the nation's "bread basket," GMPRC scientists develop new technologies to protect and improve U.S. grain production and products that are important human foods and livestock feeds in both domestic and international markets.

For example, GMPRC researchers are investigating the best technologies for detecting the presence of potentially harmful, mold-producing toxins on grains, according to center director Don Koeltzow. They are also seeking new methods to monitor and control stored-product pests that can invade grain warehouses and consumer pantries.

The center's researchers are screening wheat ancestors and wild relatives for valuable genes that could provide much-needed resistance against costly disease and insect threats to wheat. Its cereal chemists have conducted groundbreaking studies on grain proteins, with the long-term goal of providing consumers with high-quality, grain-based products that have optimal taste, functionality and nutrition.

As part of their mission, GMPRC researchers are also focused on developing effective, user-friendly resources for farmers hoping to conserve their land and soil in this wind-prone region of the country. Along with collaborators, they've created the Wind Erosion Prediction system—the most cutting-edge model available for forecasting wind erosion.

Senator Pat Roberts has been invited to give the keynote address at today's ceremony. ARS Northern Plains Area Director Will Blackburn will also speak at the ceremony. Invited guests include academic and research partners, business and agricultural leaders and public officials.

The ARS facility was originally dedicated in 1970 on a 12-acre tract of land deeded to USDA by the State of Kansas. On the center's grounds are a 60,000-square-foot combined laboratory and office building, pilot plant and 150-foot-high grain elevator.