Officials say Agronomy Research and Innovation Center is important to the future of agriculture
By Pat Melgares and Susan Schiff
Photo by Dan Donnert
Hailing the occasion as “a significant milestone for Kansas State University and the entire agriculture industry in Kansas,” Kansas Governor Laura Kelly joined state and national officials in a symbolic groundbreaking for the university’s Agronomy Research and Innovation Center on May 15.
The new facility, expected to be completed in 2025, will be located on the north end of the K-State campus, in an area known as the Agronomy North Farm across from Bill Snyder Family Stadium. It will serve as a cornerstone for work that K-State agronomy department head Raj Khosla calls “critical infrastructure for the success of our research, teaching and extension missions.”
“In the last 10 years alone, the Department of Agronomy has conducted more than $50 million of research that is initiated right here at the Agronomy North Farm,” Khosla said. “The new Agronomy Research and Innovation Center will bring research teams together from around campus to create new discoveries and solutions that will address the wicked challenges we are facing in agriculture today, and the ones that will come in the future.”
Ernie Minton, the Eldon Gideon Dean of the College of Agriculture and Director of K-State Research and Extension, added: “The Center is a keystone for the college’s vision to strengthen and diversify agribusiness in Kansas and around the globe and will serve as a demonstration site for public/private partnerships focused on best practices in sustainable/regenerative agriculture, crop production innovation, technology development and training, and conservation and protection of natural resources.”
The May 15 groundbreaking marked K-State’s official kickoff of more than $125 million in agricultural infrastructure improvements planned through 2026. In fall 2022, the university launched an ambitious campaign to raise $75 million toward campus projects, which include the new agronomy buildings, the Global Center for Food and Grain Innovation and the Animal Sciences Arena.
K-State President Richard Linton said the university exceeded its goal, raising approximately $80 million in four months, which was then matched by a $25 million challenge grant from the Kansas legislature, and $25 million more from an initial legislative appropriation.
“At K-State, we see this as a new way of thinking,” he said. “We think of infrastructure as a way of being an incubator for strong public-private partnerships where industry can work hand-in-hand with K-State researchers to leverage ideas and funding to move forward and develop the students of tomorrow. In doing so, we will create markets and jobs that are important for our stakeholders.”
“In turn,” he added, “this creates a better economy for all of us in Kansas. It’s a great example of realizing our vision of what we like to call the next generation land-grant university. We are asking questions of what the interaction needs to look like between the next generation of land-grant students and stakeholders. The project we begin today is a solution.”
Linton added that K-State continues to raise funds toward a projected $210 million in significant infrastructure improvements to nine facilities over the next several years. Thus far, the university has raised $140 million toward that bigger goal.
“No place in Kansas will succeed and have a bright future unless our farmers and ranchers have a bright future,” said U.S. Senator Jerry Moran, one of the several supporters in attendance May 15. “One of the significant ways we can improve the lot in life of those who have a noble calling – feeding a hungry world – is to provide them with the knowledge they need to reduce their costs, become more efficient and produce more.”
Agricultural research is critical, Moran said, “and what is going on at K-State is a key that is opening a door wider and wider to agricultural producers, agribusiness and the state of Kansas economy.”