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US (PA): Board approves plan to purchase property to advance agricultural research

To advance Penn State agricultural research, the Penn State Board of Trustees Committee on Finance, Business, and Capital Planning moved forward with a proposal on February 16 to purchase 20.36 acres of land in Benner Township, Centre County, near the University Park campus. 

The proposal advances to the full board for its consideration on February 17. 

The University plans to purchase the property at 131-151 Mendels Way for $2.35 million with funding provided by the College of Agricultural Sciences. The property features a 25,000-square-foot research greenhouse and a 3,324-square-foot, single-family residence. 

According to Blair Siegfried, the college’s associate dean for research and graduate education, the acquisition will provide increased access to modern research facilities and support the recruitment and retention of plant scientists and students. 

“The purchase of this property and its advanced greenhouse facilities represents a unique opportunity and will help support the College of Agricultural Sciences’ broader efforts to improve plant sciences facilities in support of efforts to develop resilient crop plants, identify improved plant traits, and allow research that requires the biocontainment of invasive pests,” he said. “The facility also will provide access to students and promote the education of the next generation of plant scientists.” 

In addition to updated and expansive greenhouses at the main property, the nearly 10 acres of land adjacent to the greenhouses will provide space for field experiments, including studies examining protected agriculture, pollination services, and new crop varieties. 

The site could provide opportunities for research on invasive and quarantined plant pests and genetically modified plants requiring biocontainment. The college will place a high priority on experiments that support global food security and sustainability, including studies on plants that are resilient to climate instability with traits such as enhanced carbon utilization, drought resistance, and pest resistance/tolerance. 

“This property will offer researchers immediate access to modern greenhouse facilities at a fraction of the cost of building new structures so that we can continue to fulfill our mandate to advance agricultural industries in our state and the nation,” said Siegfried, who is also the director of the Pennsylvania Agricultural Experiment Station, the college’s umbrella organization for distributing, managing and reporting state and federally funded land-grant research. 

“Additionally, it will provide students the chance to learn about recent advancements in plant propagation and research. We see a bright and productive future ahead.” 

Siegfried acknowledged the support of the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences and Eberly College of Science in advancing the acquisition.  


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