Farmers Will Benefit from
Plant Science Research in New Building
by Martha Jackson
he new plant science building is a $21 million facility with
21st century technology. It signals the College's commitment to
plant research for farmers like the Clifts, McAtees, and Whites
and the rest of the agricultural industry.
personnel occupied the 96,000-square-foot building this spring.
It houses faculty from Agronomy, Plant Pathology, and Horticulture
and has 33 labs, 29 lab support rooms, three conference rooms,
and 15 rooms with controlled environments for plant science research.
It also holds the Cameron Williams Lecture Hall, which seats 93
people. The lecture hall, located off the foyer on the first floor,
is named for a 1949 alumnus who has spent his career with Rickard
Seeds and is a generous benefactor to the College.
The building's first floor will be primarily for research in forages,
genomics (study of the structure and function of genes), and plant
growth; the second floor for research in plant disease; the third,
for molecular biology and genetics; and the top floor for seed
biology, plant biochemistry, and weed biology.
Agriculture in Kentucky and elsewhere will benefit from the wide
range of research that will take place in the new building. It
will include the discovery of new varieties that have higher yields
and are more disease-resistant, horticultural research to improve
seed quality, and the bioengineering of plants for a variety of
uses, which is a growing segment of Kentucky's economy.
The new plant science building has been an idea for two decades,
but the money to build it became available only about five years
ago, when 43 acres of the College's South Farm were sold. That
land was considered by researchers to be of little use agriculturally
and also impractical because Man O War Boulevard separated it
from the rest of the farm. The 43 acres sold for $18.3 million,
and with $3 million made available from other University funds,
the plant science building got the green light.
The new building will open up much-needed space in Ag North so
- Entomology labs can be consolidated there, brought in from
other locations across campus.
- Four researchers with the USDA's Agricultural Research Service
will be able to work in Ag North as part of a joint UK-USDA
forage-animal research project announced last summer.
- Ag North teaching areas can be expanded.
An addition to the plant science building is planned to house
other plant and soil science programs. It will have labs, a greenhouse
complex, and office space. That expansion will be included in
a future capital project request to the legislature. (The current
building was built without state appropriation.)
This building will foster groundbreaking research, including that
supported by two recently endowed faculty positions.
A $1 million endowed faculty chair has been established with $500,000
from the estate of the late Harry E. Wheeler, a plant pathologist
at UK from 1967 to 1984, and a match from the states Research
Challenge Trust Fund. Chris Schardl, professor of plant pathology,
who is working on eliminating the toxic qualities of the endophyte
that infects tall fescue, will hold the Harry E. Wheeler Chair
in Plant Mycology.
Harold R. Burton, whose research has been in reducing harmful
compounds in the cured tobacco leaf, holds the Harold R. Burton
Endowed Professorship in Plant Biochemistry that was established
with a $620,000 gift of stock from Star Scientific Inc. and Jonnie
Williams. The states Research Challenge Trust Fund matched
Linus Walton, associate dean for administration; Michael
Barrett, chair of Agronomy; and David Smith, chair of Plant Pathology,
provided information for this story.