Ground was broken on the Texas A&M University West Campus in College Station Thursday for a $49 million Plant Pathology and Microbiology building, scheduled to be completed by May 2019.
“This building will help us to address our grand challenges of feeding our world, protecting our environment, enriching our youth, improving our health and growing our economy,” said Dr. Mark Hussey, vice chancellor and dean of agriculture and life sciences at Texas A&M.
When the building is completed, 13 of the 14 departments of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences will be on the West Campus, Hussey noted. In 2008, an effort began to centralize all of the agriculture and life science components. Four new buildings have been added as a result.
The plant pathology and microbiology department dates to more than 100 years ago when Dr. J.J. Taubenhaus was hired in 1916 to be Texas A&M’s first plant pathologist. The department now has more than 35 faculty located on campus and around the state at Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension centers.
Dr. Sandy Pierson, plant pathology and microbiology department head, said plant pathology and microbiology faculty perform research on a wide diversity of plant-microbe interactions, including plant immunity, biocontrol, pathogenicity mechanisms, plant signaling and volatiles, mycotoxins, programmed cell death and biofuels.
“Through these approaches, we hope to better understand how the plant microbial community — its ‘microbiome’ — determines crop health and the plant’s ability to resist stresses such as disease, drought, poor water quality and low soil nutrients,” Pierson said.
The new building will feature classrooms and a “front porch” on the first floor. The 84,000-square-foot building will consist of a four-story laboratory wing and a three-story teaching and departmental office wing, Hussey said.
Pierson said programs leading to careers in plant pathology, microbiology and bioenvironmental sciences are offered through the department. Additionally, graduate students may specialize in such areas as plant microbiology, genomics, disease management, microbial ecology and molecular plant-microbe interactions.