KANNAPOLIS, N.C.--Researchers hope a new greenhouse complex in Kannapolis will lead to breakthroughs in plant growth and eventually farming.
The complex near the North Carolina Research Campus is giving N.C. State University scientists more opportunities to hold trials on plants, primarily fruits and vegetables.
"We've been using this house as a pathology house so we do all our disease work here," said Ray Jacobs, a Ph.D student in the strawberry breeding program.
The complex consists of 10,000 additional square feet for plant trials, opposed to labs a small fraction of the size that limited research.
"We're able to isolate our disease work from the work we do with the plants we keep and use and the field, so we keep those nice and clean and our disease is quarantined almost," said Jacobs. He said right now they're looking at a fungus in strawberries, known as crown rot, which kills the plant at its base before it can produce strawberries.
"What we're trying to find out is, are there genes for resistance, we suspect that there are," said Jacobs.
And if there are, that information can be passed on to strawberry breeders, helping them develop strawberries resistant to the fungus and pass those on to farmers.
"They'll receive the benefits of increased yield that would otherwise be lost to this fungus," said Jacobs. He said in some cases the fungus has contributed to up to 80 percent loss in yield of strawberries.
"It's something you don't see or think of when you're in the grocery store, but it's a major impact to the farmer, it can really reduce their yield and profits," said Jacobs.
It's just one of the trials going on there now, including the possible development of a better breed of broccoli in the house next door.
The complex will serve as a place for even more trials like this on a larger scale than before.
"That just lends itself to progressing our research at a greater pace and making those discoveries that we're hoping for," said Jacobs.
There are about 200 varieties of strawberries in the complex. Researchers are also looking at things like breeding a strawberry with an extended growing season.