New greenhouse facility will enhance the research of various departments on campus

The Plant Growth Environments Facility is currently underway near East Campus Drive and Eucalyptus Drive. Katherine A. Borkovich, professor and chair of the Department of Microbiology and Plant Pathology with the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences (CNAS) said that this new greenhouse facility will expand the amount and the quality of greenhouse space on campus. This is a $22 million project being conducted by the Office of Planning, Design & Construction and is considered integral for the research of numerous departments on campus.

This is the first new greenhouse and plant growth facility being built on campus in nearly 50 years. It will allow students and faculty “the opportunity to do research in state-of-the-art facilities with much greater control over the growth environment,” wrote Peggy Mauk, director of agricultural operations and a subtropical horticulture specialist with CNAS. The 30,000 square foot, two-story facility will feature growth chambers on the bottom floor which UCR does not currently have.

The chambers are small and intended for much smaller scale research. Each chamber will be able to house plants, pathogens and insects in an isolated environment to keep experiments more controlled. However, since this is not a quarantine facility, “research will only be conducted on organisms that can be grown outside of a quarantine,” wrote Mauk.

Mauk stated that the current greenhouses on campus are facing various challenges with maintaining temperatures within specific ranges so that plants and experiments are not damaged. However, the new facility enables researchers to conduct studies on plants, pathogens and insects that are limited by high temperatures or need higher humidity.

The Plant Growth Environments Facility will include greenhouse modules on the top floor made of double-layered clear glass. Each module will have the ability to control the temperature, humidity and lighting of the room via wireless technology. Mauk added, “(researchers) will be able to adjust the temperature so that plants that grow in high altitudes under much cooler day/night temperatures can be studied here.” The additional air conditioned space alone will enhance the experiments of researchers who require environments with a consistent temperature.

The space will also include various labs and work spaces so research may be conducted in-house without having to be transported from place to place, making the research more efficient.

“This space is modern, flexible and was designed with UCR needs in mind. It should enable a more reliable plant growth environment,” wrote Borkovich. This facility is the first in a series of plant growth spaces planned to replace the aging greenhouses at UCR. “This greenhouse will promote the research productivity and success of UCR faculty and students,” added Borkovich.

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