New home for collaborative agricultural research to open
WSU Pullman's new Plant Sciences Building.
Washington State University
| January 3, 2021 1:00 AM
PULLMAN — Washington State University will celebrate the opening of the new Plant Sciences Building, a state-of-the-art home on the Pullman campus for collaborative research supporting regional and global agriculture.
The new facility was virtually dedicated through a commemorative video released on Nov. 16. Featuring university and college leaders, students, and agricultural and legislative partners, the video can be viewed via the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS) website.
The latest addition to the V. Lane Rawlins Research and Education Complex on the Pullman campus, the $66 million building was funded by the Washington State Legislature. Construction began in 2018, and was completed this fall.
The four-story, 82,400-square-foot building supports Washington’s $51 billion food and agriculture industry by providing a modern research venue for faculty, staff, and students in the Institute of Biological Chemistry, WSU’s Molecular Plant Science Program, and portions of the Departments of Horticulture, Plant Pathology, and Crop and Soil Sciences. These programs were previously located in Johnson Hall, built in 1959, and Clark Hall, constructed in 1971.
“This is a massive upgrade in the quality of our lab space,” said André-Denis Wright, dean of CAHNRS. “The labs we have now were built decades ago, and were made for a single research program. Now, we can host CAHNRS faculty from four departments, and foster research that is both applied and basic — from finding out how plants grow and interact with soil, to addressing specific challenges in agriculture.”
CAHNRS drew on participation from members of the state’s grain, tree fruit, wine, grape, potato, dairy, beef, and raspberry industries, as well as the Washington State Department of Agriculture and the Washington Farm Bureau, in developing the facility.
“This isn’t just a building — it’s a brain trust for the future of Washington agriculture,” said Vicky Scharlau, executive director of the Washington Winegrowers Association. “By understanding basic, fundamental plant processes, people here today are creating the foundation for the agriculture of tomorrow.”
“Agriculture is our state’s number one employer,” said state Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, a Ritzville grain grower. “WSU has been our partner in promoting the agricultural economy for more than 100 years. This project helps take us from facilities built around the time I was born, into modern plant buildings, and keeps us at the cutting edge for every aspect of plant science. It benefits both the consumer and the producer, and will be an asset for our grandchildren.”
“This remarkable building is not only a tremendous asset for researchers working in the plant sciences, but also represents another bold step in our Drive to 25,” said WSU President Kirk Schulz. “This facility would not have been possible without the extraordinary leadership of key elected officials, including state senators Jim Honeyford, Judy Warnick, David Frockt, and Mark Schoesler. They understood the vision of this building in ensuring Washington’s leading role in agriculture, both nationally and globally, and making a more productive, sustainable world.”
The Plant Sciences Building was designed by Seattle-based LMN Architects, and built by Sweden-based Skanska.
“The new Plant Sciences Building provides state-of-the-art research facilities that are interconnected to the Research and Education Complex, and more broadly to the culture of research on the Washington State University campus,” said LMN Partner Stephen Van Dyck. “At every level of the building, we crafted shared spaces adjacent to the complex’s central spine, enhancing the interdisciplinary disposition of the complex and encouraging spontaneous interaction.”
Based in open-concept laboratories that foster collaboration, scientists at the Plant Sciences Building will use new technologies to explore complex traits in plants, defend against parasites and diseases, and improve the nation’s cyber infrastructure, among other endeavors. Knowledge developed here will help improve hundreds of important crops, including wheat, potatoes, apples, cherries, legumes, forest trees, and turf grass.