MANHATTAN, Kan., February 22, 2008Research on cereal grains will soon be enhanced, thanks to major renovations nearing completion at a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) research facility here. Originally dedicated in 1970, the Grain Marketing and Production Research Center (GMPRC) is being modernized as part of a 10-year project. The center is operated by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency.
Set on a 12-acre tract of land deeded to USDA by the state of Kansas, the center comprises a 60,000-square-foot combined laboratory and office building, a pilot plant and a 150-foot grain elevator. The GMPRC works collaboratively with several partners, including Kansas State University, also in Manhattan.
Todays dedication celebrated the 10-year, four-phase, $14.8-million renovation needed to make the aging structure state-of-the-art once again. It provides the main building with new heating and cooling plants, modern electrical and plumbing systems, a new roof and wheelchair accessibility.
"This remodeled facility will provide the up-to-date environment necessary for the center's scientists to conduct issue-driven, problem-solving research in production, harvesting, storage and marketing of the nation's staple grains, including wheat, corn and sorghum," ARS Administrator Edward B. Knipling said.
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, livestock feeds and potential sources of biofuels in both domestic and international markets. For example, some GMPRC researchers are developing new ways to monitor and control stored-product pests that can invade grain warehouses and consumer pantries, according to center director Thomas Shanower. Others are investigating new technologies for monitoring and sorting grain with specific genetic or quality characteristics.
Researchers at GMPRC are screening wheat ancestors and wild relatives for valuable genes that could provide much-needed resistance against costly disease and insect threats to wheat. Cereal chemists there have also conducted groundbreaking studies on grain proteins and starch, with the long-term goal of providing consumers with high-quality, grain-based products with optimal nutrition, flavor and functionality.
Another focus of GMPRC researchers is on developing user-friendly resources to help farmers conserve soil in this wind-prone region. Along with collaborators, they created the Wind Erosion Prediction System, the most cutting-edge model available for forecasting wind erosion.
Invited speakers at today's ceremony included Senator Pat Roberts, Governor Kathleen Sebelius, USDA Under Secretary Gale Buchanan and Knipling. Guests included academic and research partners, business and agricultural leaders, and public officials.