Facilities

North Carolina has a robust agricultural economy, an extensive research infrastructure, a vibrant agri-business sector, and regional diversity in climate and soils that allow experimentation on extremely productive soils, suboptimal soils and soils representative of many parts of the world.  This fertile setting along with the strengths of North Carolina State Unversity, a premier land grant university at the forefront of the charge to sustain and secure North Carolina’s and America’s leadership and competitiveness in the agriculture and life sciences sector provide the intellectual capacity, experience and capability to address complex challenges in agriculture. 

 

Field Sites and Resources

The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) in conjunction with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS) has 18 well-equipped and staffed research stations spanning the very diverse physiography and climate of North Carolina. There are three primary physiographic regions: from west to east, the Mountains, Piedmont, and Coastal Plain.  The range of altitude is the greatest of any state east of the Mississippi River, from sea level at the coast to 2,037 m in the Mountains.  Altitude is a primary factor governing temperature: in all seasons, the average temperature varies substantially (~6.7°C) from the lower coast to the highest elevations. Average annual precipitation ranges from ~940 mm in the northwest, 1000 to 1300 mm across the Piedmont and Coastal Plain, to a maximum of >2,300 mm in the southwest.  Soils are similarly variable. In the Coastal Plain, they derive predominantly from deep, soft marine sediment. Piedmont soils developed predominantly in situ from bedrock. Mountain soils derive primarily from weathered and eroded rocky material. The great majority of North Carolina soils are highly weathered Ultisols.

 At each research station, the State Climate Office of NC maintains an Environment and Climate Observing Network (ECONet) station, which provides a complete suite of environmental observations at temporal intervals ranging from 1 min to 1 hr.  The extant AMPLIFY studies are being conducted in Kinston at the NCDA&CS Cunningham Research Station located in the state’s most important agricultural region, the Coastal Plain.  The research site is equipped with a traveling-boom, variable-rate (VRT) “smart” irrigation system and sampleable controlled drainage and shallow groundwater wells.  For in situ soil moisture measurement, we have a Delta-T PR-2/6 multi-depth soil moisture probe and access tubes; a MoisturePoint TDR Soil Moisture System with multi-depth probes; tensiometers; and in situ capacitance/conductance moisture and temperature sensors. These are complemented by a portable irrigation system. Exhaustive characterization of the spatial variability of soil chemical and physical properties was begun last year and will continue after harvest 2015.

Three additional intensively instrumented irrigation and drainage research sites will be utilized for conducting cutting-edge research on agricultural water management focusing on adapting crop production systems to climate change and variability. Two of these coastal-plain sites are located at the Tidewater Research Station in Plymouth: the third is on a private farm in Bath.  Current research on these sites includes smart irrigation systems, drainage water recycling (reuse), and agricultural water quality.  Soil characteristics have been documented extensively and we have hydrologic and water quality data for 3 to 10 years of record.

We have a complete suite of GPS-enabled precision agriculture equipment. This includes: a Winterstieger Precision Planter; a John Deere Sprayer with Variable-Rate Controller; yield-monitor-equipped plot- and production-combines; and soil sampling equipment comprising a tractor-mounted hydraulic coring probe, a truck-mounted drill rig, and two all-terrain vehicles with surficial soil sampling probes.  We have two real-time kinematic GPS receivers, several differentially corrected handhelds, and several hardened Allegro and Pentium field PCs.  There are plant and soil grinding/sieving facilities, small- and large-scale soil and plant driers, and a variety of vehicles for travel to and from project sites.  The Soil Science shop is equipped with drill press, band-saw, grinder, vise, shop tools, and bench for constructing columns and other small devices for laboratory and field studies. The Dept. of Biological and Agricultural Engineering (BAE) has a full-service research shop which provides machining, fabrication and assembly of functional items and prototype equipment.

We have a variety of instruments for proximate and remote sensing. Our geophysical sensors include blue-tooth-enabled Geonics EM-38 and Geophex GEM-2 soil electrical conductivity meters.  Ground penetrating radar is available on request to the USDA-NRCS regional geophysicist.  For crop canopy reflectance measurements to calculate the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) and the Photochemical Reflectance Index (PRI), we have Decagon SRS and Skye Instruments sensors and data loggers.  We have several Minolta Leaf Chlorophyll (SPAD) Meters, a Li-Cor Light Meter, and a thermal imaging camera. We have a Leica ScanStation 2 High-Definition 3-D Lidar Scanner to characterize crop canopy architecture.

 

On-Campus Laboratories and Equipment

Researchers have access to an extensive array of diverse, well-equipped, state-of-the art laboratories in CALS and the Colleges of Engineering (COE) and Sciences (COS). The Dept. of Soil Science houses three university service centers. The Analytical Spectroscopy Service Laboratory and the Environmental and Agricultural Testing Service provide elemental analyses on routine and atypical matrices. These include catalysts, nanoparticles, fibers, proteins, serum, cells, cell media, plant/animal tissue, milk/milk products, freshwater invertebrates, soil digestates/leachates/extracts, solid wastes, water, and wastewater. Water quality analyses are also available at the Environmental Analysis Test Service Lab in the Dept. of Biological and Agriculture Engineering (BAE).  These facilities provide student and faculty access to a variety of instruments including: Latchat QuikChem Flow Injection Analyzers; Dionex Ion Chromatographs; a Schimadzu TOC/TON Analyzer; a Hewlett Packard HP 6890 Gas Chromatograph; an Elan DRCII Inductively-coupled plasma (ICP)-Mass Spectrometer; and a Perkin Elmer 2400 C-H-N-S-O Dry Combustion Analyzer, and 559A UV-visible 3100/5000 atomic absorption and 8000 –ICP-Optical Emission Spectrometers. The Soil Physical Properties Lab offers soil particle size, water retention, and hydraulic conductivity analyses, which are also available at the BAE Soil and Water Lab.

Faculty research labs are equipped with resources and state of art equipment necessary to be competitive for federal and private funding.  These includes specialized equipment needed for contemporary research in molecular biology, genomics, microbiology, and soil microbial ecology.  Also available is a high-resolution Raptor Photonics Eagle V camera is operated in a temperature and humidity controlled Percival chamber. The camera features a thermo-electric cooler capable to -80C. Heliospectra RX60 lights are used to control UV-visible conditions for plant growth. This provides the long exposure times needed for sensitive plant imaging and fosters high quantum efficiency (>90%) to minimize noise.  State-of-the-art equipment for optical imaging, assembly, spectral calibration, measurement, and validation are also available, including an Horiba Micro-HR Monochromator, an Oriel MIR 8025 Fourier-transform Infrared Spectrometer, a Fourier-transform hyperspectral imaging spectrometer, and a hyperspectral pushbroom imaging camera. Major equipment includes a He-Ne laser; fluorescent polymer and non-fluorescent silica microspheres; Nikon imaging lenses; crystal and dichroic linear polarizers, achromatic quarter- and half-wave plates; optical tables; an Ocean Optics HR4000 Spectrometer; a Xenon Arc Lamp; and tungsten-halogen light sources.

 

Shared Facilities

Our newly renovated Phytotron provides ample facilities for growing and maintaining large populations of plants. It has 22 large and 12 small walk-in growth chambers, 23 reach-in chambers, three temperature-controlled roof-top greenhouses including a BSL-3 greenhouse for high containment work. Phytotron staff attend to plants on a regular schedule as necessary.

The Department of Plant and Microbial Biology hosts the NCSU Cellular and Molecular Imaging Facility, which houses a Zeiss LSM 710 Laser scanning confocal microscope. This scope has a fully automated XY stage, is capable of spectral analysis with a 34-channel detector, and has the ability to monitor dynamic changes of multiple fluorophores. Fluorescence Correlation Spectroscopy (FCS), Fluorescence Energy Transfer (FRET), co-localization analysis, and Recovery After Photobleaching (FRAP) are available. SimFCS software for scanning FCS is installed. A Zeiss Lightsheet Z.1 microscope provides multi-view and long-term live imaging of medium-to-large specimens. Images are acquired with two PCO.edge s-CMOS cameras. Other instruments include a Zeiss Axio Imager M2 fluorescence microscope and camera ideal for life-cell assays, and an Olympus MVX10 fluorescence microscope.

Scanning and Transmission electron microscopy (SEM/TEM) facilitiesare available at the NCSU Center for Electron Microscopy; and the COE’s Analytical Instrumentation Facility. The latter includes an optical profilometer for surface characterization. The Dept. of Molecular and Structural Biochemistry hosts mass-spectrometry, NMR, and X-ray facilities. The North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis, NC houses a complete microscopy suite that includes several Zeiss 710 LSM, one Zeiss LSM 5 LIVE, and one multi-photon and one spinning-disk confocal microscopes. This equipment is accessible to NCSU researchers for a fee. All facilities are operated and maintained by specialized staff experienced in the design and implementation of materials characterization experiments.

The Genomic Sciences Laboratory houses instruments and support for sequencing and other genomics services. Equipment available on a fee-for-service basis includes an Illumina Hi-Seq sequencing system that routinely produces 230 million 100-bp reads per lane, and an Agilent 2100 Bioanalyzer for determining the size distribution of the prepared libraries. The laboratory also has an Illumina Mi-Seq sequencer and a BioRad QX200 droplet reader to optimize sample preparation.We have access to a PhosphorImager and an InstantImager through the NCSU Biotechnology Program. The Flow Cytometry and Cell Sorting Laboratory is located in the College of Veterinary Medicine. It provides instrumentation and assistance for multi-parameter flow cytometric analysis and sorting, including a Dako Cytomation MoFlo high-speed cell sorter.

COE is home to numerous world-class facilities.  The NCSU Nano-Fabrication Facility is a state-of-the-art class-100-cleanroom semiconductor processing facility.  It maintains a robust set of equipment for semiconductor and molecular processing, growth, and integration. Available for assembling deliverables and prototypes are: spin coaters, photolithography mask aligners for electrode-patterning, wet benches for ITO etching, and fume hoods.  The Precision Instrument Machine Shop is a full-service facility with more than 100 years of combined experience in the design, development, and construction of laboratory instrumentation and hardware. 

The COE is located on our Centennial Campus, a 1,000-acre advanced technology community for university, government and industrial partners, all potential hosts for internship experiences.  It was named “Outstanding Research Park” in 2007 by the Association of University Research Parks. Centennial is home to more than 70 corporate, government, and non-profit partners. These include USDA APHIS, Forest Service Southeast Regional Climate Hub, and Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center; and a National Weather Service Forecast Office. 

Additional NCSU core facilities not detailed here provide state-of-the-art equipment and services. These include the: Plant Transformation Laboratory, Bioinformatics Consulting Service Center, , Laser Imaging and Vibrational Spectroscopy Facility, Electronic Instrument Shop, Scientific Glassblowing Services, and BSL3 Biocontainment Facility, Via memoranda of understanding, NCSU researchers can avail themselves of a variety of analyses provided by the NCDA&CS Soil, Plant Tissue, and Waste Analysis Laboratories.

 

Computational Resources:

The university network includes a sophisticated Fiber Distributed Data Interface-Asynchronous Transfer Mode backbone which provides fast 2.5 Gbps Internet connectivity and supports more than 19,000 on campus computers. The network provides access to regional and national high-performance and supercomputing.  Networked PCs/workstations are equipped with a broad array of software including SAS, JMP, ArcGIS, GS+ Geostatistics, ERDAS Imagine image analysis, SigmaPlot Graphics, and full MS Office and Adobe Acrobat suites.  The NCSU Bioinformatics Research Center offers expertise in data storage, management, and analysis. While the Center’s current emphasis is genetics and genomics, they will also apply their expertise and facilities to the analysis of “big data” emanating from AMPLIFY. The Center maintains a computing environment that contains multiple nodes ranging from 32 GB up to 768 GB of RAM attached to over 200 TB of local storage. For dedicated parallel processing, there is a four-unit GPU server with CUDA enabled cards, including 2 Fermi-level Tesla GPUs with 24 GB of 133MHz RAM. The servers are used for statistical analysis and data storage by the faculty, trainees, staff, and Center using a full suite of statistical and genetic data analysis programs such as SAS, R, Bowtie, Cufflinks, Samtools, PLINK, Mothur, Trinity, Velvet, MERLIN, Fbat, Pbat, SOLAR, etc. Infrastructure is available to set up and maintain customized Blast website solutions, and the servers are expandable to meet future demands.

The Soil Science Department maintains over 750 GB of spatial data for use in research. The data are gathered from local, state, and federal agencies and processed to support projects as needed. The Department’s Spatial Information Research/ Geographic Information Systems Laboratory provides the computational resources and expertise necessary for working with large, complex, spatial datasets in support of research activities, including student computing facilities for data processing and analysis.Replicated servers in the Dept. of Crop Science are available to store climate and experimental data, as needed.

 

Libraries

NCSU has several outstanding libraries, Our D.H. Hill Library houses the majority of our collection of over 4.6 million items. It features: the Learning Commons, one of the top student destinations for collaboration, study, and technology access; the Special Collections Research Center; and the Digital Media Lab. Our visionary, award-winning James B. Hunt Library opened in January, 2013. It is our second main library and the intellectual and social center of Centennial Campus.  The San Francisco Chronicle listed it among “the most spectacular libraries in the world.”  It is the primary library for our engineering, textiles, and other science programs. Designed to inspire a spirit of discovery and collaboration, its innovative learning spaces are filled with technology-enabled furniture, high-definition video walls, 3-D computing and visualization space, and videoconferencing and telepresence facilities.  

 

Centers and Institutes

Center for Plant Breeding and Applied Plant Genomics

Institute for Advanced Analytics

Bioinformatics Research Center

North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies

State Climate Office of North Carolina

Water Resources Research Institute

Center for Integrated Pest Management

Center for Integrated Fungal Research

Center for Turfgrass Environmental Research and Education

Center for Environmental and Resource Economic Policy

Center for Robotics and Intelligent Machines

Plants For Human Health Institute

Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS)

NextGen Air Transportation (NGAT) Center