SDCUC gives $1 million to SDSU Seed Technology Lab

The South Dakota Corn Utilization Council (SDCUC) will provide $1 million for the South Dakota State University (SDSU) Seed Technology Laboratory project. The Seed Technology Lab will be a state-of-the-art facility designed to focus on seed science and technology.

“The partnership of South Dakota agricultural producer groups such as the South Dakota Corn Utilization Council is designed to keep South Dakota agriculture at the leading edge of the bioeconomy,” said Gary Lemme, dean of the College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences at SDSU. “Communities in South Dakota will benefit from the career opportunities generated through expansion of agricultural processing industries. South Dakota corn producers will work closely with SDSU researchers to promote economic development through scientific advances.”

The goals of the Seed Technology Laboratory will encompass many components and priorities of South Dakota corn producers. The specific goals include:

  • Modernization of the SDSU Seed Testing Lab with facilities for seed testing, genetic/trait analysis, and test development;
  • Development of a comprehensive seed science and technology program at SDSU;
  • Expansion of research in crop and grain quality, trait identification and monitoring, and plant product extraction and utilization;
  • Partnerships with private industry in research and application; and
  • Facilitation of economic development opportunities in the agricultural biotechnology industry in South Dakota and the region.

“The SDCUC’s investment really underscores and strengthens the biotechnology emphasis of this project,” said Kevin Kephart, SDSU vice president for research. “It was South Dakota Corn who said this project needs to have a biotech connection and needs to have some sort of processing connection. South Dakota Corn has given the most specific research mission out of all the groups involved in this project.”

The concept, which began in 2001, has evolved into a mission to be an attraction to large companies or small start up companies for biotechnology.

“The SDCUC knows better than anybody what that spectrum of biotech activity is out there,” said Kephart. “Biotech companies might be attracted to a modern laboratory facility that has university research as well, so we expect this lab will provide a means for attracting biotech companies to the state of South Dakota.”

According to Kephart, most of the initial developments in pharmaceutical biotechnology or industrial products coming from biotechnology are using corn as either a model or corn as a production system for that. The reason is because the biotech industry has made its initial investments in biotechnology through corn; they know how to transfer corn and know more about corn than just about any other plant out there.

“Seeds will be the ‘package’ that will deliver genetic advances for the benefit of South Dakota’s agriculture and economic development,” said Lemme. “The delivery of specialized crops that are designed to optimize particular traits required by a value-added industry such as bioenergy or plant-based pharmaceuticals will be the impact of the Seed Technology Program at SDSU.”

The SDCUC’s $1 million dollar investment is truly an investment in South Dakota corn producers’ future. Many of today’s new agricultural technologies are delivered to producers in crop seeds, and more advances will come in the years ahead. Traits developed through traditional plant breeding and transgenic techniques allow farmers to produce crops more efficiently and effectively (ex. Bt corn and Roundup Ready soybeans). In the future, new markets will open in food, feed, energy, health, and other areas (ex. pharmaceuticals, nutrition components, and biofuels).

“The biotech industry has the potential to be a larger economic driver than ethanol,” said Brian Woldt, president of SDCUC. “We are only limited by our imagination as to what we can produce through biotechnology. SDSU can be a leader in assisting bringing biotech companies, technology and opportunity for all South Dakota producers. With our partnership in the Seed Technology Lab, we will have the ability to find this technology, adapt it and increase profitability for producers.”

South Dakota is already a leading state in the adoption of transgenic crop technologies. That along with attractive qualities in the state gives South Dakota an edge as biotechnology is developed.

“I believe that South Dakota has unique qualities that lend itself to a future in agricultural biotechnology,” said Kephart. “Some of this will be for production of specific products or traits that would require growth in isolation. South Dakota farmers are better experienced at producing biotech crops than anybody else in the world. And when you combine that with our ability to grow these things in isolation and along with South Dakota’s demonstrated capability for farmers to begin an industry from the ground up, such as the ethanol industry as an example, all of those things come together right here in the state like no where else. So this is where I believe biotechnology has an opportunity to get going.”

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