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New PBARC building
Research at the U.S. Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center's new, state-of-the-art lab and office building focuses on exotic tropical crops.

New USDA Research Facility to Open in Hawaii

By Marcia Wood
May 29, 2007

HILO, Hawaii, May 29—U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists who conduct pioneering research on Hawaii's exotic tropical crops now have a modern facility here in which to carry out their farmer- and consumer-oriented work. The new facility will formally open today with an afternoon ceremony.

The $19-million, 35,000-square-foot office and laboratory structure is part of the U.S. Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center, operated by USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS). ARS is the chief scientific research agency of USDA.

Display of whole and sliced papayas: Link to photo information
An ARS-developed hot-forced-air process kills hitchhiking fruit flies, ensuring mainland U.S. and export markets will continue to welcome the premium fruit. Click the image for more information about it.

For further reading

  • Pineapples have fingerprints, too!
  • Predicting lychee and longan harvests
  • Winning the fruit fly battle in Hawaii
  • Papaya sex chromosomes and evolution

"Our researchers develop new, environmentally friendly ways for Hawaii's growers and home gardeners to raise premium tropical and subtropical crops—from bananas to papayas," said ARS Administrator Edward B. Knipling.

"USDA research in the Hawaiian Islands dates back more than 100 years," he said. "We're pleased to have this well-designed, state-of-the-art building in which to continue this tradition of discovery. The research benefits growers and everyone who enjoys the fruits, vegetables, flowers and other crops of Hawaii."

Knipling added, "Our research has helped reduce the need for pesticides, open new markets for Hawaii-grown fresh produce, and unlock secrets about genes that hold the key to boosting plants' ability to survive drought or resist attack by disease."

Invited speakers for today's dedication ceremony include U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye; USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics Merle Pierson; and ARS Associate Administrator Antoinette A. Betschart.

In recent years, collaboration between ARS and university scientists resulted in papaya plants that resist attack by the devastating papaya ringspot virus. In other collaborations with university cooperators and growers, ARS scientists provided leadership, expertise and workable technologies to control several of the tropical fruit flies that can hinder growers' ability to produce premium crops for local, mainland U.S. and export markets.

Scientists' teamwork and grassroots-oriented approaches have helped many of Hawaii's growers use fewer pesticides to protect their crops. Center Director Dennis Gonsalves noted that ARS scientists and colleagues garnered one of USDA's highest honors for this work.

In other developments, scientists refined what's known as a "hot-forced-air" treatment for packinghouse use, to ensure that papayas shipped from Hawaii are free of living fruit flies.

The new scientific facility is located about four miles from downtown Hilo in a science and technology park managed by the University of Hawaii-Hilo. The Honolulu architectural firm of Richard Matsunaga and Associates designed the new center. Taisei Construction Corp., Cypress, Calif., built it. Additional facilities for the ARS center are in the planning stages.