WOOSTER, Ohio Ã¢â¬â Ohio First Lady Frances Strickland witnessed the dedication of a renewable energy pilot plant and learned about first-class research on plant genetics, influenza viruses and green industrial products during her first visit to the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development CenterÃ¢â¬â¢s (OARDC) Wooster campus on Tuesday, Dec. 14.
During her daylong tour of the campus, Strickland was accompanied by Bobby Moser, dean of Ohio State UniversityÃ¢â¬â¢s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental (of which OARDC is the research arm); OARDC Director Steve Slack; and OARDC associate directors David Benfield and Bill Ravlin.
Ã¢â¬ÅWe were very pleased to host First Lady Frances Strickland,Ã¢â¬Â Slack said. Ã¢â¬ÅThis was an opportunity to have her visit with faculty and to see projects in action from honeybees and the Secrest Arboretum to alternative energy programs and the Molecular and Cellular Imaging Center. Her interest level in these programs and how they impact the state of Ohio was exceptional.Ã¢â¬Â
Strickland started her visit by learning about OARDCÃ¢â¬â¢s efforts to boost local food networks and sustainable agricultural production throughout Ohio. She then toured the Molecular and Cellular Imaging Center (MCIC), where researchers utilize state-of-the-art technologies to develop, among other things, disease-resistant, high-yield vegetables and field crop varieties for biofuel applications.
The First Lady visited Ohio StateÃ¢â¬â¢s Honey Bee Laboratory, which conducts research on bee diseases and honey production, and Secrest Arboretum, an outdoor laboratory that provides key scientific information to OhioÃ¢â¬â¢s $4.13 billion a year nursery and landscape industry.
Strickland also had the opportunity to learn about OARDCÃ¢â¬â¢s new infrastructure projects, including the Feedstock Processing Research Facility, a $5.5 million state-of-the-art building dedicated last August that supports research in animal nutrition and bioproducts. She also spoke with food safety researchers about the proposed Plant and Animal Agrosecurity Research Facility Ã¢â¬â a $22.2 million highly secure laboratory that will be the first in Ohio and one of only five nationally equipped to study both diseases of plants and large animals.
The rest of the First LadyÃ¢â¬â¢s tour dealt with projects in the renewable energy and industrial products arena. She heard from crop scientists and engineers working with private companies in the development of polyurethane foam from soybean straw and biodiesel byproducts, ethanol from crop residue, natural rubber from dandelions, and a variety of composites from natural fibers.
Finally, Strickland took part in the unveiling of quasar energy groupÃ¢â¬â¢s (formerly Schmack BioEnergy) biogas plant on OARDCÃ¢â¬â¢s campus. OARDC and quasar have partnered to optimize technologies for the conversion of agricultural and municipal waste to energy via anaerobic digesters. The facility is expected to process 40-50 tons of waste per day and produce 400 kilowatts of electricity Ã¢â¬â enough to supply one third of the campusÃ¢â¬â¢ energy needs.
Ã¢â¬ÅWhen you visit OARDC and see all of the important and innovative research and experimentation that goes on there, including the launching of a methane gas digester, you feel good about OhioÃ¢â¬â¢s position in the world,Ã¢â¬Â Strickland said. Ã¢â¬ÅIt was also impressive to see all of the local leaders who had come together with private business to make something great happen for the community and the state. My visit to OARDC was all around a gratifying day.Ã¢â¬Â
OARDC is the largest university agricultural biosciences research center in the nation.