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United States Department of Agriculture, USDA is committed to providing safe and nutritious food, conservation, sustainable food production and revitalizing rural America, which is why it only makes sense to have a lab and eight scientists and technicians from Agriculture Research Service (ARS), the principal intramural scientific research agency of USDA, at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.
The unique relationship between the two organizations stems from a common goal to improve plants. The USDA-ARS’s existence at the Danforth Center creates an additional source to infuse plant science’s best minds for agriculture advancements in research.
In 2002 U.S. Sen. Kit Bond sponsored legislation to help provide the funding necessary to locate a USDA lab and recruit USDA-ARS scientist, Dr. Eliot Herman to the Danforth Center. Dr. Herman later moved from ARS to the Danforth Center. The combining of USDA with a nonprofit is unique but the USDA does partner with multiple universities. The government arrangement demonstrates another vote of confidence for the expanding Center which recently received a grant of $70 million from the Danforth Foundation.
“The cross-flow of ideas and skills created by having a lab at the Danforth Center makes this partnership unparalleled,” said Ivan Baxter, a USDA-ARS Principal Investigator at the Danforth Center. “Synergy of minds and accessibility to cutting-edge technology is key to successful research.”
Dr. Baxter’s lab, and the lab of Dr. Douglas Allen, are part of the USDA-ARS Plant Genetics Research Unit, PGRU, but housed at the Center. The PGRU is located in Columbia, MO and is focused on developing “new knowledge that expands our understanding of the fundamental processes controlling increased production, improved quality, and enhanced uses of corn, soybeans, and wheat; and to utilize this knowledge to develop germplasm and crop management schemes that lead to increased farm profitability and sustainability of the nation's resource base.”
In addition, having a partnership with the USDA furthers Missouri’s developments in biotechnology. The partnership puts the state a step closer in positioning it as a leader in the growing industry. Researching crops native to the Midwest as well as food security crops grown around the globe helps agriculture research and development advance and provide growth in economic development.
The Danforth Center benefits from having premier scientist brainstorming and networking together and the USDA has ample accessibility to the facilities and technology at the Center. The overlapping collaboration and sharing of resources between the organizations helps further their research.