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Corn rootworm larva. Link to photo information
Brookings scientists are searching for eco-friendly tactics for controlling the corn rootworm—the number-one pest of corn. It costs farmers hundreds of millions of dollars a year in pesticides and lost crop yields. Click the image for more information about it.

USDA Lab Committed to Sustainable Farming Gets New Research Wing

By Erin Peabody
April 20, 2006

WASHINGTON, April 20—A U.S. Department of Agriculture laboratory whose mission includes finding nonchemical solutions to agricultural pests across the nation's Midwest officially unveiled a new research wing today.

This morning, officials at the North Central Agricultural Research Laboratory (NCARL) in Brookings, S.D., dedicated new laboratory and office space, part of which will serve as a technology transfer area for accommodating farmers, growers and other customers who benefit from the Brookings scientists' research. The lab is administered by the Agricultural Research Service, USDA's chief in-house scientific research agency.

"For more than 20 years, the NCARL—through its world-class insect-rearing facility—has provided critical support to national efforts to rein in the troubling pest known as the corn rootworm," said ARS Administrator Edward B. Knipling. "If left unchecked, this insect could inflict serious damage to the nation's Cornbelt."

The new addition will also help support another of the Brookings scientists' objectives: developing technologies that will make ethanol fuel production more efficient and profitable.

Formerly known as the Northern Grain Insects Research Laboratory, the expanded ARS research facility changed its name about a year ago to reflect a renewed and focused commitment to north central Plains crop production and soil and water conservation. The NCARL encompasses the Eastern South Dakota Soil and Water Research Farm, which is engaged in research projects concerned with clean water, clean air, soil stewardship and sustainable agriculture.

U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson delivered the keynote address. Other speakers included USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics Merle Pierson, and Knipling.

The original Brookings research facility was built in 1960 and opened its doors the following year. Funds for the South Dakota laboratory had been set aside by the U.S. Congress in response to the persistent insect pests that were known to plague the region, including the destructive corn borer, wireworms, grasshoppers and aphids.

Since then, Brookings researchers have developed numerous biologically-based tools to help battle troubling insects. With their research partners, including South Dakota State University, they have developed recommendations to control soybean aphids and corn rootworms. They've also developed more diverse and ecologically friendly crop rotation systems for farmers across the north central region of the country.