MIDDLETON, Wis. — A $10 million commercial biotech plant laboratory in Middleton, first opened in 1982 with the help of University of Wisconsin–Madison scientists, will soon become part of UW–Madison following a donation from Monsanto Co.
The facility, a labyrinth of greenhouses and laboratories where some of plant biotechnology’s first critical steps were taken, was officially donated to UW–Madison’s University Research Park by Monsanto in December to become the hub of the new Wisconsin Crop Innovation Center (WCIC).
“This gift will enable us to create a plant biotechnology facility unparalleled in the public sector,” said UW–Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Dean Kate VandenBosch.
The facility features 20 greenhouses encompassing 28,000 square feet, 15,000 square feet of controlled environments – shade houses and light rooms – and 50,000 square feet of high quality laboratory space on 4.5 acres. It is anticipated that researchers in the plant sciences from many corners of the UW–Madison campus – agronomy, biochemistry and botany, among others – will use the facility to help develop and improve commercially important plant stocks and methodologies.
“The University of Wisconsin has a long and distinguished history as a hub of innovative plant science research and advancing agriculture,” said Tom Adams, vice president and biotechnology lead for Monsanto. “We at Monsanto are extremely pleased that our donation of this state-of-the-art crop research facility at the university will contribute to this mission and further accelerate scientific advancements, ultimately resulting in more solutions for farmers across the world.”
The facility was donated to University Research Park, a UW–Madison affiliate, which will manage the facility under a lease to the university.
“This is an unprecedented opportunity to add capabilities and capacity we couldn’t otherwise afford,” said Shawn Kaeppler, a UW–Madison professor of agronomy and the director of the new WCIC. “This will energize the campus plant science research community.”
According to Kaeppler, crop species likely to be under the microscope at WCIC include corn, sorghum, soybean, and small grains such as oats, barley and wheat. “The types or research projects include: improving crop nutrient efficiency, evaluating strategies to produce crops better suited for use as biofuels, enhancing crop disease resistance, and improving the yield and composition of crops grown in sustainable production systems,” Kaeppler said.