Feature Story | 3-Aug-2023

U.S. Department of Agriculture holds a ribbon cutting ceremony for the opening of a new laboratory building in Texas

US Department of Agriculture - Agricultural Research Service

TEMPLE, TEXAS, August 3, 2023- The USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), Grassland, Soil, and Water Research Laboratory, today held a dedication and ribbon cutting for the opening of a newly renovated laboratory building that will allow scientists to continue their mission of developing solutions for more efficient use of soil and water resources, enhancing forage and crop production, and supporting sustainable agricultural production in healthy ecosystems by utilizing modern technology.

This event celebrated past, present, and future cooperative research between USDA-ARS, USDA- Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and Texas A&M AgriLife. 

The ceremony opened with remarks from leaders emphasizing the significance of the construction project, which allowed for the modernization of the existing Grassland, Soil, and Water Research Laboratory, originally built in 1976.

Dr. Steven Kappes, ARS National Program associate director, spoke about the laboratory history of working on solutions for regenerative agriculture movements and addressing challenges faced by various agricultural industries. The new laboratory is expected to continue this work.

“We are very excited to celebrate the completion of the modernized Grassland, Soil, and Water Research Laboratory research facility to improve the safety and efficiency of our research and enhance collaborations with our long-term partners, NRCS and Texas AgriLife,” said Dr. Kappes.  “This facility will be instrumental in building upon our 46-year research program to develop new and innovative methods and models to improve soil, water, crops, and rangeland management techniques in changing climates.” 

Others in attendance included U.S. Representative John Carter, Temple Mayor Tim Davis, ARS Plains Area Director Dr. Larry Chandler, and ARS Laboratory Research Leader Dr. Douglas Smith.

“The Grassland, Soil and Water Research Laboratory is one of the preeminent centers for natural resource model development, a program which now has a global impact, and the water quality dataset at the facility offers one of the richest datasets on environmental outcomes from agricultural conservation,” said Dr. Smith with the Grassland, Soil and Water Research Laboratory.

“The modernization project has been a long process, and we are excited to have our facility ready to meet the research needs to support agricultural producers and decision-makers for many decades to come.”

The Grassland, Soil, and Water Research Laboratory was established in 1929, sharing a location with USDA scientists from the Division of Chemistry and Soils at the Texas A&M AgriLife Blackland Research and Extension Center. The initial objective was to develop tools and technologies to assist farmers in the Texas Blackland Prairie. The research expanded to address the region's highly erodible soils, which were causing significant losses for producers and farmers in the region, particularly during the Dustbowl in the 1930s. Scientists focused on creating conservation practices to reduce erosion.

Over the years of research, Grassland, Soil and Water Research Laboratory scientists evaluated terraces and grassed waterways in various sites, including the Blackland Prairie, collecting more than 80 years of data. The data have contributed to the development of initial empirical models for evaluating the role of agriculture in water quality through erosion. These models have been continuously improved and now serve as the primary mechanisms to evaluate the environmental outcomes of agricultural conservation policy.

The new laboratory will focus on the following research projects:  

  • Enhancing decision support tools for crop and forage production and watershed management.
  • Develop improved soil, water, and crop management techniques.
  • Develop sustainable crop, forage, and biofuel production systems.
  • Increase rangeland productivity and quality.
  • Mitigate global change effects on agriculture.

The USDA-NRCS and Texas A&M AgriLife will be sharing laboratory and office space with ARS researchers. This collaboration in research will bring benefits to growers, commodity groups, agricultural businesses, and U.S. consumers who count on this partnership to discover solutions to agricultural and environmental issues.

The Agricultural Research Service is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific in-house research agency. Daily, ARS focuses on solutions to agricultural problems affecting America. Each dollar invested in agricultural research results in $20 of economic impact. 



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