Three USDA labs on Cornell campuses to receive $925,000 for upgrades

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Blaine Friedlander

The Robert W. Holley Center for Agriculture and Health at Cornell in Ithaca and the Plant Genetic Resources Unit and Grape Genetics Research Unit on Cornell's Geneva campus will receive $925,000 from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for upgrades, announced New York Gov. David A. Paterson June 20. Both units are U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) research facilities.

The funding will improve the safety and health aspects of the laboratories, enhance energy efficiency and reduce the cost of operation and maintenance. These benefits are expected to improve the working environment and to result in improved productivity and maintenance savings that will be captured and returned to directly support the research program. The facilities conduct research of the highest priority to USDA, said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack.

The Holley Center will receive $275,000. It houses three USDA research units: the Plant, Soil and Nutrition Research Unit, which works on crop nutritional quality and the bioavailability of essential minerals for humans and plant mineral nutrition; the Biological Integrated Pest Management Research Unit that provides innovative pest and disease management methods to reduce the use of synthetic chemical pesticides while providing long-term control; and the Plant-Microbe Interaction Research Unit, which focuses solely on the plant pathogen that causes speck disease on tomatoes. Relatives to this bacteria cause disease in virtually every major vegetable crop.

The plant genetic and grape genetics units will receive a combined $650,000. The recently established Grape Genetics Research Unit studies the full gamut of grapes grown in the United States, including those grown in California's semiarid valleys and those that experience cold winters, such as those in New York. The Plant Genetic Resources Unit helps preserve and safeguard about 20,000 samples of cold-hardy grapes, apples, tart cherries and vegetables and has about one-third of USDA's grape research acreage planted in its vineyard.

"These grants will help improve the state's ability to support our New York farm families and continue to protect all New Yorkers by ensuring that the food we make is also safe to eat," said Paterson. "I want to thank President Obama and Secretary Vilsack for acknowledging this critical aspect of our agricultural infrastructure."

New York State Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker said, "We are very pleased to see economic recovery funds come to New York to help upgrade these important USDA facilities that provide a considerable amount of services and support for New York's agricultural industry."

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