A new U.S. Department of Agriculture research facility was dedicated in Maricopa, Ariz., recently, beginning a new era of research for scientists who are developing environmentally friendly agricultural practices for arid climates.

The U.S. Arid-Land Agricultural Research Center (USALARC) boasts a state-of-the-art data communications system and top-of-the-line analytical and research equipment. The $27 million facility covers 100,000 square feet and will support 26 permanent researchers, two visiting scientists, several postdoctoral scientists and about 80 support personnel. USALARC is part of USDA's Agricultural Research Service.

“Scientists will focus on understanding the complex relationships between cropping systems, water management and the environment,” said ARS Administrator Edward B. Knipling.

The new facility combines in one consolidated, multidisciplinary research center the U.S. Water Conservation Research Laboratory and Western Cotton Research Laboratory — two ARS research facilities formerly located in Phoenix. Researchers at the U.S. Water Conservation Laboratory developed improved methods for crop irrigation. Scientists at the ARS Western Cotton Research Laboratory developed integrated management techniques to improve cotton production and control pests like the whitefly and the pink bollworm.

At USALARC the researchers will be organized into three units: Water Management and Conservation, Pest Management and Biocontrol, and Plant Physiology and Genetics. The center is under the direction of Thomas Henneberry, former research leader of the Western Cotton Research Laboratory.