Ignazio Carbone, Terri Long and Amy Grunden in greenhouse

Future Proof

Agriculture built North Carolina. The NC Plant Sciences Initiative will keep it growing.

About the Initiative

A rapidly growing population. Less farmland. Climate and water shifts. These are just some of the challenges facing agriculture today. Complex challenges — requiring complex solutions.

The NC Plant Sciences Initiative is a unique concept that puts all the elements together in one place.

Agricultural scientists will work with engineers, mathematicians, social scientists, computer scientists, modelers, economists and marketers to deliver sound, science-based answers that make economic sense.

NC State and the N.C. Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services are leading this effort, partnering with commodity groups, established ag businesses and start-ups. The hub will be a state-of-the-art research complex on Centennial Campus that draws the brightest minds in academia, government and industry. Cross-disciplinary teams will work together, bringing innovation that increases yields, enhances sustainability and extends growing seasons.

In short, changing the game. And making North Carolina a world leader in plant sciences.

Think and Do

The grand challenges facing the world don’t mimic the neat organizational structure of a traditional university.

Take hunger, for example. As the climate changes, populations grow and arable land shrinks, it’s going to take a collaborative approach to ensure reliable plant-based food sources. NC State researchers in biology, computer engineering and environmental engineering are merging botany and big data to determine why some plants wither under stress while others thrive.

An interdisciplinary research model is the cornerstone of the NC Plant Sciences Initiative. Having plant scientists collaborate with experts in engineering, economics, biology and even marketing ensure the research covers all the potential aspects. And resulting in a strong, cohesive purpose and greater market potentials.

NC State Plant Sciences Initiative building rendering

A Real Impact

The NC Plant Sciences Initiative will certainly help grow agriculture in our state. But it will also help in ways you may not expect, due to its the interdisciplinary approach. Scientists will be needed, of course. But so will engineers, mathematicians and economists. As well as disciplines ranging from meteorology to marketing.

What’s developed in the lab will need to be tested in the field. NC State and the N.C. Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services oversee more than 30 testing facilities. These sites give our farmers the new varieties and methods they need to improve yields and raise profits, growing local economies. In short, our impact is innovation in action.

Here’s one example: NC State researchers developed the Covington sweet potato variety in 2005. Look at how successful it’s been in under 10 years.

Infographic about sweet potatoes


Great Partners

The NC Plant Sciences Initiative has received strong support from commodity groups and the biotech industry, underscoring the state’s desire to create a global hub for plant sciences.

As NC State’s Chancellor Dr. Randy Woodson put it, “The NC Plant Sciences Building is our first step in our interdisciplinary approach of bringing together North Carolina’s agriculture community with the great biotech industry we have here in the Triangle and across the state.”

For Dan Weathington, executive director of the North Carolina Small Grain Growers Association, supporting the initiative is a matter of supporting the state’s farmers.

“The science and innovation that will come from this investment can dramatically improve crop yields across all our commodities – helping boost productivity for our farmers and improve their profitability,” he says. “It will allow North Carolina farmers to better feed a growing population, having a global impact while driving local economies.”

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