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Purdue's High-Tech Plant Science Lab Gets State Funding Approval

Courtesy Purdue University

A major new plant science lab at Purdue University has gotten funding approval from the state.

Researchers at the $6.25 million Controlled Environment Phenotyping Facility will study how to make cash crops grow better in a high-tech setting.

Purdue already has a lab that studies the traits of plants -- from their visible parts down to their DNA.

But that lab is outside, at the school's research field -- which is what will set the new facility apart, according to phenomics director April Agee Carroll.

"It's a greenhouse, or a climate-controlled chamber," Carroll said. "Plants move around on conveyor belts in pots, they can go through imaging stations."

Scientists will manipulate light, air, water, pathogens, even day length to see how plants perform compared to their outdoor counterparts. Carroll said they'll focus on discovery first -- they might genetically modify a plant just to experiment on it.

"The academic focus is about learning about the plant, and how it produces, and how it yields, and how it survives," she said.

Still, if farmers or consumers could benefit from a plant or piece of technology made in the lab, Carroll says industry partners can help get it to market.

Gov. Mike Pence still needs to sign off on the lab funding. After that, construction is set to begin next year and wrap up in 2018.