Washington State University’s four-story, 82,400-square-foot Plant Sciences Building completed this fall in Pullman promises to help advance research into a wide variety of crops.

The $66 million state-of-the-art facility, funded by the Washington state Legislature, will be home to collaborative research supporting regional and global agriculture.

“This is a massive upgrade in the quality of lab space,” Andre-Denis Wright, dean of WSU’s College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences, said in the Plant Sciences Building virtual commemoration video posted on the college’s website. “The labs we have now were built decades ago and were made for a single research program. Now we can host CAHNRS faculty from four departments — Horticulture, Plant Pathology, Crop and Soil Sciences, and the Institute of Biological Chemistry.”

According to the college’s website, scientists at the Plant Sciences Building will use new technologies to explore complex traits in plants, defend against parasites and diseases, and improve the nation’s cyber infrastructure, among other endeavors. Knowledge developed there will help improve hundreds of important crops, including wheat, potatoes, apples, cherries, legumes, forest trees and turfgrass.

“The needs of ag in Washington state are always changing,” said Brandon Schrand, College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences interim director of communications. “We’re always advancing technologies to make more sustainable, better crops in the state of Washington, and that necessitates sort of state-of-the-art researchers, state-of-the-art facilities those researchers can work in in order to make sure that Washington is competitive in the national and global marketplace in agriculture.”

Schrand said graduate students will make up the lion’s share of the students who work in the facility. He said the building is “a vital piece of recruiting premier graduate students” to WSU’s plant sciences programs.

“They not only want to come and work with very often particular researchers who specialize in a particular area, but they want to make sure that they’re working in facilities that are up to date, that are cutting-edge so that they’re not five, 10 years behind the curve when they go out to apply for postdocs or jobs,” Schrand said.

Construction on the glass-and-brick building started in 2018.

“The concepts and the designs — that conversation was a long time in the making,” Schrand said. “This project was the result of well over a decade of planning from a variety of key players.”

The open-concept laboratories foster collaboration, a change from the older, partitioned buildings plant sciences students worked in, he said.

“This building, architecturally, really places a premium on the concept of collaboration and the concept of natural light,” he said.

Garrett Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to gcabeza@dnews.com.