FORT PIERCE, Fla., Mar. 17A new U.S. Department of Agriculture mobile biocontainment laboratory that will allow scientists to work more safely with invasive species and other agricultural threats was unveiled here today at the U.S. Horticultural Research Laboratory (USHRL).
"This mobile unit will allow USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to continue cooperative efforts to protect American agriculture from a variety of pests and diseases," said ARS Administrator Edward B. Knipling. "It's another example of the strong partnership between the two agencies, which have previously partnered in efforts to control fire ants, detect bovine spongiform encephalopathy, and eradicate screwworms and fruit flies."
The event at USHRL was hosted by ARS and APHIS. APHIS is responsible for protecting and promoting U.S. animal and plant health, administering the Animal Welfare Act, and carrying out wildlife damage management activities. ARS is a scientific research agency. Representatives of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' Division of Plant Industry, the University of Florida, and the Florida citrus industry joined USDA officials for today's event.
The innovative greenhouse lab was designed and developed by ARS plant pathologist Timothy R. Gottwald at USHRL, in collaboration with APHIS plant pathologist Paul E. Parker, director of the Mission Plant Protection Center in Mission, Texas. Gottwald and retired ARS plant pathologist Steve Garnsey designed and built the prototype lab, which has been used for the past decade to study citrus canker and other plant diseases. Construction and final outfitting of the new Mobile Containment Greenhouse/Laboratory were funded by APHIS and overseen by Parker at the lab in Mission.
The 48-foot-long lab has a computer-controlled greenhouse and laboratory that are sealed off from the outside. Built on a trailer-type chassis, the lab can be moved to different locations as needed.
In addition to tours of the mobile lab and presentations by Gottwald and Parker, today's event also included demonstrations of a new wind tunnel created by USHRL scientists for studies of citrus canker bacterial dispersal and infection. The tunnel can generate a full range of winds, from gentle breezes to hurricane velocity.