MADISON — Sevie Kenyon: Introducing the new Wisconsin Crop Innovation Center. We’re visiting today with Shawn Kaeppler, Department of Agronomy University of Wisconsin-Madison in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and I’m Sevie Kenyon. Shawn, I’ve got to ask you to introduce us to this new Wisconsin Crop Innovation Center.
Shawn Kaeppler: The Crop Innovation Center was a new administrative unit that’s being established at Wisconsin. The big reason that we established this innovation center is due to a gift from Monsanto Company of a very substantial building and a facility to conduct plant biotechnology and plant genetic research.
Sevie Kenyon: And Shawn, maybe I can get you to tell us what is going to go on in this facility?
Shawn Kaeppler: The facility will enable plant genetic research, using technologies such as plant transformation and gene editing and also some types of phenotyping where we measure plants in certain more specific ways than they’ve been measured before to look at their growth rate and other characteristics. The goal of those types of activities is to take a wealth of information that we’ve gained from genome science research, sequencing and so on, and translate that into discoveries that are both a basic science interest and also to help move discoveries from the University of Wisconsin in to products that are useful for farmers and consumers and the general public and we hope that this has an impact both in the U.S. as well as across the world.
Sevie Kenyon: Shawn can you describe this building for a radio audience?
Shawn Kaeppler: So, the building is about 100,000 sq. ft. in capacity, has office and laboratory space, conference rooms, and a big part of the building is a 30,000 sq. ft. of greenhouse space and so that is something that is really limiting on campus and in the area in general and really important for plant biotechnology research. We estimate the capacity each year is more than a million plants, young plants that can be grown in the facility and 10-20,000 plants that can be grown to seed for plants and size of corn or soybeans or sorghum.
Sevie Kenyon: Shawn look into the future a little bit, what kinds of things might come out of this lab?
Shawn Kaeppler: Well we’re facing a world where we have a growing population, we have climate instability and climate challenges, reduction in resources such as fertilizer inputs and so on, as well as concerns overall about the environment. So, there’s just a need more broadly to address those challenges using all the types of tools available and this facility will be one of the tools that we can use to test new discoveries, new gene-based hypothesis that we have that might help to provide more food with less resources, less inputs, develop varieties that are going to be more resilient to the climate challenges that we have and develop products that are going to be of interest to consumers.
Sevie Kenyon: Shawn, when will the Innovation Center be up and running?
Shawn Kaeppler: January 3rd the doors opened and through the gracious gift from Monsanto they also left a fair amount of equipment, so it’s almost a turnkey laboratory. We’re able to begin conducting research experiments from day one.
Sevie Kenyon: We’ve been visiting with Shawn Kaeppler, Department of Agronomy University of Wisconsin-Madison in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and I’m Sevie Kenyon.
— Shawn Kaeppler and Sevie Kenyon, University of Wisconsin-Extension
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