June 8, 2000 | By: Haven Miller

Agricultural research in Kentucky took a big step forward recently as state agriculture leaders celebrated two significant events on the University of Kentucky campus. State officials and invited dignitaries broke ground Monday for the new $21 million plant science building, and also announced major gifts that will enhance crop research.

The four-story plant science building will house laboratories, faculty offices, and a lecture hall. The facility will be home to the Agronomy, Plant Pathology, and Horticulture departments of the UK College of Agriculture.

"This new facility promises to be the state-of-the-art cornerstone of our efforts in plant research," said Oran Little, Dean of the College of Agriculture. "The work conducted here will help us prepare the next generation of plant science researchers who will serve the agriculture industry of this state, and throughout the world."

During groundbreaking ceremonies, UK administrators announced two major gifts to the College. From the estate of the late Harry E. Wheeler, former UK plant pathologist, $ 500,000 will establish an endowed faculty chair in mycology, which is the study of fungi. From Star Scientific, Inc., approximately $ 500,000 worth of stock will go to establish a research professorship in honor of Dr. Harold R. Burton, a University of Kentucky plant biochemist.

Each of the two gifts will be eligible for matching funds from the Research Challenge Trust Fund, bringing the anticipated total to $ 2 million.

"We're extremely excited about these generous gifts, and the start of construction for this facility," said Scott Smith, Associate Dean for Research in the UK College of Agriculture. "Creative research and development is the key to maintaining not only our supply of affordable food and fiber products, but also the survival of many of our farms."

Smith said the new facility will usher in a number of innovative research programs, including special initiatives in fruits & vegetable, specialty grains, ornamentals, precision agriculture, forage management, and genetic technologies.

"The research and technology transfer capacity we're building will help preserve the competitive edge for Kentucky's crop farmers by offering new opportunities for crop diversification and addressing threats faced by smaller farming enterprises," said Smith.

One example of new programs featured at the groundbreaking ceremony is UK's Biotechnology Research and Education Initiative, or BREI, established recently by the College. BREI is a multi-disciplinary team of research, extension and teaching professionals working together to provide science-based information about agricultural biotechnology to the public.

Biotech labs devoted to genetics and molecular biology will occupy the third floor of the new building. Seed technology, plant biochemistry, and weed biology groups will occupy the top floor. Plant pathology activities will be carried out on the second floor, and the first floor will provide space for forage research and plant growth and containment facilities.

The new Plant Science Building, designed by Louis and Henry Group Architects of Louisville, is financed by sale of 43 acres of the UK South Farm in Lexington. It will be located just east of the Agricultural Engineering Building near Cooper Drive. Future plans involve addition of labs and offices for other plant and soil science programs, plus new greenhouses.


Scott Smith - 859-257-3333 Bill Sheets - 859-257-7200