May 22, 2003 | By: George Lewis

The University of Kentucky today unveiled its new Plant Science Building, where researchers are combating parasites and pathogens while improving farmer profitability.

Joseph Jen, USDA Undersecretary for Research, Education and Economics

Dr. Joseph Jen, USDA

Kentucky Governor Paul E. Patton, Lexington Mayor Teresa Ann Isaac, and Joseph Jen, USDA Undersecretary for Research, Education and Economics, joined UK President Lee T. Todd Jr. and UK College of Agriculture Dean and DirectorM. Scott Smith at the grand opening.

“Creative agricultural research and development maintains not only our supply of affordable food and fiber products, but also the survival of many of our farmers,” Todd said. “The work of scientists like those occupying the new Plant Science Building serves all of society.”

Home to the departments of Agronomy and Plant Pathology, as well as some horticultural scientists, the four-story $21 million building contains laboratories, faculty offices and a lecture hall in 96,000 square feet. The building was financed primarily by the sale of 43 acres of the UK South Farm in Lexington.

“This new building will allow us to sustain world-class plant research,” Smith said. “The work done here will help us prepare the next generation of plant science researchers who will serve the agriculture and biotechnology industries of this state and the world.”

Dr. Lee Todd, UK President

For one young researcher, the building symbolizes commitment.

“This building shows the university’s dedication to provide the appropriate materials and funding that can support the high quality of research that goes on here,” said Cathy Richardson, a doctoral student in plant pathology.

The building’s two upper floors house research labs devoted to plant genetics and molecular biology, crop physiology, seed biology, plant biochemistry, and weed science.  Plant pathological research will primarily be done on the second floor. The first floor will provide space for diagnosis of plant problems, the UK Advanced Genetics Technology Center (UK-AGTC), undergraduate research, plant growth and containment facilities and a collection of historic Kentucky weeds.

Research already under way includes the development of disease resistant and higher yielding plants, improved seed quality, prevention of forage toxins, pathogen control with less use of chemical pesticides, and bioengineering of plants, which is a growing segment of Kentucky’s economy.

From this research, applied findings are provided to the agricultural community at large through theUK Cooperative Extension Service. Farmers use that information to improve the profitability of their crops.

Supporting this research is the UK-AGTC, which integrates biological research entities throughout the university.

The Plant Science Building has a growing core of advanced instrumentation, including a variety of robotic molecular sequencing instrumentation; growth chambers in a contained environment to permit safe analyses of plant pathogens that threaten the agricultural economy; culture rooms and other areas for the creation of new and novel plant types; facilities for rapid selection and breeding of new plant varieties; laboratories devoted to diagnosing and solving crop problems; and specialized laboratories for crop physiology and management, plant biochemistry and plant molecular biology studies.