March 10, 2004

Geneticists Ferment With Facility

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Representative Sherwood Boehlert announced the allotment of $2.7 million to the USDA-ARS Grape Genetics Research Center last December. Cornell researchers plan to work with United States Department of Agriculture scientists in a new federal research facility to establish a national grape program for grape research. The facility will be located at the Cornell Agriculture and Food Technology Park at Geneva, a research park focused on food, agriculture, and bio-based technologies.

Marc Smith, assistant director of the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, said that the 73-acre site will house both the proposed buildings and a number of others. “The idea is to bring private companies, government agencies, and agricultural and technology firms to locate in Geneva in close proximity to the foods scientists we have here,” he said. Smith anticipates that the ground-breaking will take place sometime in May.

The GGRC will broaden the work of scientists at the USDA-ARS Plant Genetic Resources Unit as well. The PGRU, located at the Experiment Station, was formed in 1986, and assumes national responsibility for particular vegetable crops including the cold-hardy grape. Its website states a mention to “acquire, maintain, characterize, evaluate, document, and distribute the genetic resources of crops.” The Experiment Station itself was founded in 1882 to advance a sustainable plant agriculture and food system through research and extension programs that address local and global needs.

The grape is one of PGRU’s largest collections. Researchers are presently evaluating it for suitability for cryogenic storage in liquid nitrogen, which would eliminate potential crop damage by weather, insects, bacteria, or viruses. Smith said that the funding will hopefully benefit local grape growers.

There is, he said, “quite an ambitious plan for this center.”

“I’m proud of the efforts Cornell has put forward to improve the agriculture industry,” said Boehlert. “This funding will go a long way toward energizing the grape industry here in New York which will reap immeasurable benefits for our local grape growers.”

The project could take up to 15 years to complete and participants anticipate as many as 1,000 new jobs created.

Archived article by Maya Rao