USDA to Open Forage Research Facility

USDA, University of Kentucky Break Ground on New Forage Research Facility

Russ Quinn
By  Russ Quinn , DTN Staff Reporter
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Dignitaries, including Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack (third from left) and U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., (fourth from left), take part in the groundbreaking ceremony for the new USDA Forage-Animal Production Research Unit (FAPRU) at the University of Kentucky. (Photo courtesy of University of Kentucky Extension)

OMAHA (DTN) -- Ground was broken earlier this week for a new USDA Forage-Animal Production Research Unit (FAPRU) on the campus of the University of Kentucky in Lexington.

A ceremony was hosted Tuesday by USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the University of Kentucky's College of Agriculture, Food and the Environment (UK-CAFE). On hand for the groundbreaking ceremony were Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

"Today's groundbreaking (is) building on more than two decades of partnership with University of Kentucky, while demonstrating USDA's latest commitment to pushing the boundaries of what is possible for agriculture, and to creating profitable and sustainable systems, rooted in science, that will advance farmers' production for years to come," Vilsack said in a USDA press release.

The new FAPRU facility is expected to be completed by 2026 and the new building will encompass approximately 52,600 total square feet of office space, supporting a research laboratory space as well as a collaborative area, headhouse and eight-bay greenhouses. Six ARS scientists and seven university researchers will staff the new center along with laboratory technicians and administrative personnel.

Research planned for the facility includes developing sustainable forage systems to ensure the performance and health of beef cattle and small ruminants such as sheep and goats, minimizing the incidence of tall fescue toxicosis, and evaluating the potential of natural antibiotic alternatives to improve nitrogen efficiency and reduce enteric methane emissions by cattle.

USDA released a three-year science and research strategy earlier this month which establishes a scientific framework to transform the U.S. food system and support U.S. farmers, ranchers, producers and foresters (…). Facilities like FAPRU will help USDA researchers respond to the needs of the diverse communities they serve across the country, according to USDA.

The mission of FAPRU in Lexington is to improve the productivity, sustainability, and competitiveness of forage-based enterprises. This includes enterprises that raise beef cattle, horses, sheep and goats -- particularly operators of small- to medium-sized farms.

"Today's groundbreaking for the Forage Animal Production Lab speaks to the heart of what a land-grant institution, like ours, is so distinctively positioned to do -- to take basic scientific discovery and apply that knowledge to applications that can be transferred directly to producers," said University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto in a news release.

The completion of the new building will usher in important design upgrades and functionality, more opportunity for collaboration and an expanded research capacity to support forage-based farm enterprises in Kentucky and other Transition Zone states, Capilouto said.

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