Gov. Zell Miller and others will officially open the Tifton, Ga., doorsof the National Environmentally Sound Production Agriculture Laboratoryon Dec. 12.The $6 million University of Georgialab is the only one of its type in the nation. Its goal is to enable scientiststo find better ways to grow food and fiber crops while protecting the environment.”This has been a vision we’ve all had for several years,” said CraigKvien, NESPAL coordinator and crop physiologist at the UGA Collegeof Agricultural and Environmental Sciences’ Tifton campus. “This facilityis a prototype that we hope will be adapted to other regions across thenation.”NESPAL evolved from scientists’ conducting research across many disciplines.”This laboratory provides a way for scientists to get together to workon some ‘bigger-picture’ issues we face today,” Kvien said.For example, entomologists can find ways to control the insects devouringtomato plants. But they can also work with biotechnologists to make theplants resist the insects. That way, growers don’t have to use chemicalsthat may harm the environment.”So many problems facing agriculture today,” said CAES dean and directorGale Buchanan, “can’t be adequatelysolved by scientists working alone.”The cooperative work goes beyond even the scientist teams, Kvien said.”One of our strengths is our link with other academic and industry groups,”he said. “That brings together the talents of academics and the practicalityof industry to make the research not only faster, but more easily adaptedto production.”Kvien expects some of today’s NESPAL research to be in the field inless than five years. He’s understandably excited about NESPAL.”It’s not this unit alone that can accomplish anything,” he said. “It’sthis unit working with all the others and communicating results. That’swhat will get us to our food production and environmental protection goals.”Current NESPAL projects include:* Precision agriculture that allows farmers to better apply fertilizersor pesticides where needed.* Riparian zone management to control nonpoint pollution.* How pest-control methods affect marketing standards and consumer demandsfor produce.* Developing computer-based systems to make more effective pest-controldecisions.* Study of how pesticides and fertilizers move through the soil andother landscape features.* Using plant and animal processing byproducts as resources.* Developing pest-resistant crops with artificial and natural breedingprograms.* Finding better ways to produce native plants for landscape use.The lab has been operating since 1992. But cramped office and lab spacelimited scientists’ work. The new building has 40,000 square feet.Funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture,the Georgia Research Alliance and othershelped pay for the new building. It houses 14 offices, 12 labs and seminarand conference rooms.Architects designed the building with the environment in mind. It’snestled into a soil berm and topped by a reflective white roof. Solar collectorsheat water for the building, and motion- and light-sensitive switches controlthe lighting.