Northern Crop Science Laboratory

Agricultural Research Service
United States Department of Agriculture
Fargo North Dakota




NCSL buildingThe Northern Crop Science Laboratory (NCSL) was completed in March 1988 at a cost of $8.3 million. This building is located in the southwest corner of the North Dakota State University (NDSU) campus. Fifteen Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the five NDSU scientist cooperators conduct research that helps expand and retain profitable production of barley, hard red spring wheat, durum wheat, flax, sunflowers, and sugarbeets. One wing of that building houses the NDSU electron microscope facility and the entire facility is physically attached to an existing headhouse/greenhouse complex.

Cereal Crops Research

machinesThe mission of this unit is to conduct basic research on genetics, wheat production, cytogenics, mutation, and genetic engineering techniques. Plant pathologists and geneticists are searching for germplasm to develop and improve hard red spring wheat, durum wheat, and barley varieties. Genetic factors that control pest resistance and agronomic and quality traits are also investigated. By developing and using special genetic stocks, these scientists transfer favorable genes and gene combinations from one wheat variety or species to another.

Scientists also focus on their attention on stem rust, the most serious disease of wheat. They are studying the inheritance of genetic factors that determine resistance to the stem rust fungus and the ability of different fungal strains to infect specific wheat lines. These scientists identify new strains of the fungus with specific abilities to infect certain wheats and wild species for use in developed sources of stem rust resistance are made available to wheat breeders.

The goal of the plant pathologist is to reduce losses in cereal production from viral diseases. How viruses cause disease is being investigated.. This involves studies on viral genetics, virus-host plant interactions, virus-carrier relationships, and the effects of viral infection on cereal crop yield an quality. Studies are continuing in cooperation with other scientists to control seed-borne viruses of barley by eliminating them from seedstocks. The ARS scientists also conduct cooperative research with two NDSU wheat physiologists associated with the research unit.

Oilseeds Research

The mission of the Oilseeds Research team is to reduce the cost of sunflower production A number of different approaches are utilized to achieve this goal. Geneticists and a botanist develop new and improved germplasm by conventional breeding techniques, the collection of evaluation of wild sunflower species, and the application of biotechnology. New germplasm and breeding lines are released to commercial breeders for hybrid development.

An important factor in the total cost of production is the use of chemicals for disease and insect control. A pathologist and an entomologist develop methods to evaluate germplasm for resistance to sunflower diseases and insect attack and determine the best means of reducing economic losses. The ultimate goal is to replace chemical use with genetic resistance. Biochemists seek to improve the quality of sunflower oil. In addition, they evaluate critical physiological areas for use with biotechnology procedures to develop new and unique sunflower germplasm. The Oilseeds Research unit also maintains the World Collection of Flax and distributes seed to breeders throughout the world. An NDSU scientist is associated with this research unit and is collaborating on the sunflower research.


Sugarbeet Research

petri dishThe Sugarbeet Research unit at Fargo, ND was established in 1969 with a major emphasis on sugarbeet storage problems. This unit's mission is the improvement of sugarbeet production efficiency and reduction of losses due to pests. Success has been achieved in both areas. Information, techniques and germplasm released from this research have been made available and adopted by industry. Recently, the research activities of the unit have changed to include disease-resistance mechanisms, germplasm collection and enhancement, and the physiology and selection for production efficiency. Research has now been expanded to include biotechnology, cytogenetic (Chromosome) and taxonomy studies.

Present research efforts by geneticists and a pathologist are focused on 1) the identification of the mechanism responsible for Rhizoctonia root rot resistance; 2) the collection, evaluation and preservation of wild sugarbeets species (germplasm) which has desirable characteristics; 3) the identification and transfer of root maggot resistance into commercial sugarbeets; 4) the development of biotechnological methods that can be used to enhance pest resistance; and 5) the identification of growth-limiting factors and the development of techniques o improve production efficiency.

NDSU Electron Microscope Facility

microscopeThe University Electron Microscope Facility provides technical assistance and service to North Dakota State University teaching and research scientists and to USDA scientists on campus.

Scientists skilled in electron microscopy enjoy using the electron microscopes and ancillary equipment maintained by the laboratory. Complete service i s provide to researchers who choose to be less involved with the details of microscopy. Laboratory personnel are available for consultation related to experimental design, assistance with procedures, interpretation, or cooperative research ventures. Formal graduate-level courses are offered annually. The laboratory is supported cooperatively by the Agricultural Experiment Station, the College of Science and Mathematics and the University Administration.



Agricultural Research Service Laboratories, U.S. Department of Agriculture on the Campus of North Dakota State University, Fargo, North Dakota 58105.


This brochure prepared by the North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station as a cooperator.


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