NDSU to be Home to New Genotyping Center

LOGAN MACRAE | THE SPECTRUM The USDA-ARS lab will soon be home to the state-of-the-art national Agricultural Genotyping Center.
The USDA-ARS lab will soon be home to the state-of-the-art national Agricultural Genotyping Center.

North Dakota State will be the site of the new National Agricultural Genotyping Center.

The National Corn Growers Association announced Aug. 29 the center would call the United States Department of Agriculture-ARS laboratory home.

The NDCGA spearheaded the successful bid.

With operations commencing this October, the center, located just north of Newman Field, will eventually provide state-of-the-art, mobile test kits that can be taken out directly to the field.

A partnership

The NCGA teamed up with renowned Los Alamos National Laboratory for this project.

The two forces started working together after 2009 when the corn genome was mapped.

With the $32 million investment allotted for the genome mapping, the NCGA and LANL began investigating characteristics of corn pathogens and how such detractors can be detected and immobilized.

“They wanted to develop new technologies out of this successful roadmap,” Tom Lilja, the executive director of the NDGA said.

What came out of the research was a brand-new way to look at corn.

“The NCGA developed, with Los Alamos Labs, a new method of genotyping,” Lilja, an NDSU alum, said. “This new method is what they are rolling out into this new laboratory.”


While human genotyping has been a focal point for research recently, agriculture genotyping lags behind, Lilja said. The center hopes to bring agricultural studies to the forefront.

“It will start out small, but one of the concepts — one of the big concepts with the lab — is to develop mobile test kits,” Lilja said.

Mobile test kits will hasten the time frame it takes to detect issues with crops.

Testing crop genotypes is a hassle, Lilja explained. Farmers must send a sample to a laboratory.

The new lab would allow for farmers and agriculture consultants to test their crops on location.

“The concept of this lab and this new technology is that you would be able to take mobile test kits out into the field,” Lilja said.

Calling NDSU home

Paul Belzer, a chairman of the North Dakota Corn Council, voiced his satisfaction with the NCGA’s choice of Fargo.

“The genotyping center will be a tremendous asset to growers and the agricultural community,” Belzer said in a press release, “as well as our state and local communities.”

NCGA Director of Research Richard Vierling said putting farmers first gives the producers a bigger impact on research.

“This can help growers increase production and lower costs,” Vierling said in a press release.

A national-scale search was conducted to find the new center’s future location.

Although many criteria had to be met, Fargo was selected, Lilja said, due to a number of factors.

“I would say the strength of our application was the current research infrastructure that both NDSU and the state of North Dakota had to offer,” Lilja said, referring to the modern greenhouses on NDSU campus and the state’s deep roots in agriculture.

“Part of our application was to co-locate it at an existing United States Department of Agriculture research center,” Lilja added.

Lilja also credited crop diversity in the Red River Valley and North Dakota itself.

Lilja said genotyping other crops, not just corn, is a future goal as well.

“We want to encompass all crops,” Lilja said.

“It will be, really, a feather in NDSU’s hat,” Lilja added. “They will be able to have collaborations with very reputable scientists at Los Alamos.”

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