Precision ag research focus of new university lab

Project to build on University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s long relationship with USDA

The construction of the National Center for Resilient and Regenerative Precision Agriculture at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Nebraska Innovation Campus has begun. The research center is a partnership between the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), University of Nebraska–Lincoln and Nebraska Innovation Campus. The focus of the center will be on the challenges and opportunities facing agriculture in the future.

“There is a long history of scientific innovation and collaboration between ARS and UNL, typical of the USDA-land-grant university partnerships across the country,” said Chavonda Jacobs-Young, USDA chief scientist and undersecretary for research, education and economics. “Updated facilities ensure our best and brightest scientists work in the environment and with the tools they need to successfully meet the challenges agriculture faces.”

USDA The National Center for Resilient and Regenerative Precision Agriculture at Nebraska Innovation Campus launched with a ceremonial turning of dirt on May 6. (Illustration: University of Nebraska–Lincoln)

During this digital era, agricultural production and agricultural landscapes are transforming. Farmers and producers need the latest information technology, tools and data to make informed and innovative decisions for their operations. The center will focus on key research areas to address these challenges and promote efficient agriculture practices.

“This project is a testament to the long history of innovation, ingenuity and adaptability of agricultural producers across the United States and right here in Nebraska. It celebrates an incredibly productive 120-year partnership between USDA-ARS and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and it exemplifies the passion and dedication of agricultural, state, and federal leaders,” said Mike Boehm, vice chancellor for UNL’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “Nebraska is a special place with incredible people, and the ripples of what we do here often extend around the globe. I believe the work that will take place in this facility will usher in a new era of American agriculture, and I’m thrilled that what happens next in agriculture will happen first in Nebraska.”

Reportedly, the National Center for Resilient and Regenerative Precision Agriculture is a $160 million USDA laboratory. It is expected to double the USDA’s staff presence at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. The first phase will feature 15,000 sq. ft. of greenhouses and 10,000 sq. ft. of headhouse space. It will connect to the Greenhouse Innovation Center at Nebraska Innovation Campus.

The new greenhouse is expected to allow ARS to perform research on wheat, barley, sorghum, forage and bioenergy grasses, and other crops.  Once fully completed, the agriculture research complex will function as a central hub for multidisciplinary experts, scientists and engineers who will collaborate with industry and producers to improve water and food security, increase the resilience of agricultural landscapes and enhance agricultural profitability.

“The complex problems we face today in the ag industry require unprecedented levels of collaboration to overcome. This facility will help us achieve that goal, aligning resources and magnifying impressive impacts on agriculture nationwide,” Chancellor Rodney D. Bennett said. “This national center will become the model for excellence in ag-focused innovation.”

The establishment of the center is expected to further strengthen the collaboration over the past century between ARS and UNL. These partnerships have reportedly advanced research on sustainable bioenergy crops and production systems in an age where agriculture is expected to supply 40% of U.S. liquid fuels within the next three decades, in addition to providing food and fiber to a growing population.

The Wheat, Sorghum and Forage Research Unit and the Agroecosystem Management Research Unit are currently located at UNL. The scientists working in these units are making contributions to crop and livestock production systems by improving productivity, stability of production, sustainability and profitability.

Founded in 2015, Nebraska Innovation Campus is home to more than 70 companies that include private businesses and University of Nebraska entities. Private-sector businesses occupy two-thirds of the campus’s 570,000 sq. ft. of constructed space. Facilities include office space; a makerspace; a conference center; The Scarlet Hotel, a teaching and research hotel; lab space; pilot plant space and greenhouse space.


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