US (IL): School of Ag greenhouse project underway

Construction crews broke ground last week for the Western Illinois University School of Agriculture's greenhouse project. According to School of Agriculture Director Andy Baker, in the initial phase, two 16 ft. x 48 ft. greenhouses (with a connecting hallway) are being built near the University's Livestock Center, located north of campus, just south of the Harry Mussatto Golf Course's parking lot.



Baker noted the new greenhouse facilities will extend the School of Agriculture's research capabilities in the plant-science area.

"This year, we were awarded the funds to begin the greenhouse project, one that we have requested in our annual consolidated report for several years now. We believed it was the one piece missing from the AFL (Agricultural Farm Laboratories) that would support the curricular needs of our comprehensive degree program," he said. "One of the two greenhouses will be solely intended for classroom and laboratory utilization. We will use one facility to house parent material for instructional use. The other unit will be strictly utilized for research purposes."

Baker said the University, the College of Business and Technology and the School of Ag are all contributing funding for the initial phase of the project.

"We envision a full greenhouse complex, which will be built in phases and over several years," he explained. "The overall complex will include six individual greenhouses, stacked side-by-side with a connecting hallway that leads to a head house, which will include a classroom, restroom facilities, chemical-mixing area and storage facilities. It is our intention to connect with agricultural industry leaders to assist in funding with the additional phases of the greenhouse complex."

Baker also said they hope to have the initial phase of the greenhouse facility operational for Homecoming Weekend (Oct. 3-4) and are tentatively planning an open house event that weekend.

Once the greenhouse facility is up and running, that will open up the research possibilities for School of Ag faculty members, Baker added.

"Until now, we were limited on the number of research proposals we could submit for external research funds, because we lacked a greenhouse facility to fulfil grant requirements. A greenhouse will enable us to apply for external grants that require experimental designs in a controlled environment, as well as provide faculty the capacity to conduct experimental trails before moving the research to field trials. The facility, which is designed to be state of the art, will also assist us in securing additional external funds to help support our research efforts in plant science. It will help us, too, extend our capacity to conduct more student-centred research, which will add value to our degree programs," he said.

For more information, contact Baker at +1 (309) 298-1080 or via email at AJ-Baker@wiu.edu. Visit the WIU School of Agriculture online at wiu.edu/ag

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