Welcome to the Grain Science Complex

Posted February 5, 2015

Overview of the KSU Grain Science Complex
Braving the snow on their way to Manhattan, Kansas, participants in the 2015 Women Managing the Farm Conference toured the Grain Science Complex on the north campus of Kansas State University. The six buildings – the IGP Institute, BIVAP, feed mill, flour mill, wheat innovation center and crop improvement association – cover 16 acres. Each has a long history of innovation that has benefited Kansas farmers as well as customers around the world.

IGP Institute

The IGP Institute was founded in 1978 by the Kansas legislature to help increase the “preference, consumption and utilization” of U.S. grains and oilseeds. IGP moved to the grain science complex in 2004 and the executive conference center was constructed entirely using producer funds., including from the Kansas Wheat Commission.

IGP faculty and staff instruct hundreds of participants a year through both a standard roster of courses in flour milling, feed manufacturing and grain marketing as well as specialized courses on a variety of topics and even some in Spanish.

“We are the research and extension arm to the grain science industry,” said Lisa Long, IGP Institute event coordinator.

In 2014, the IGP Institute conducted 62 courses (33 on-site, 29 distance) with 1,687 participants from 45 countries.

Bioprocessing and Industrial Value Added Program

Women Managing the Farm participants are learning about extrusion, which is used in cereal and pet foods, at the Bioprocessing and Industrial Value-added Program facility.
The Bioprocessing and Industrial Value Added Program (BIVAP) includes laboratories working on bioprocessing, bioplastics and extrusion. Researchers both teach at the university as well as conduct proprietary testing for private industry.

Dr. Sajid Alavi, supervisor of the BIVAP extrusion lab, explained that the partnership with industry benefits both parties as the industry is looking for a short term turnaround (about three months) in contrast to the university’s long term outlook (more than three years).

“It helps to keep us in touch and not sitting behind a desk doing obscure research,” Alavi said.

For food and feed products, extrusion is an efficient, high temperature cooking system that forms material into shapes. In other words, extrusion is used to manufacture products like pet food, Cheeto-like snack foods, breakfast cereals and pasta. At BIVAP, researchers work on the texture and shapes of these products, leaving decisions like flavors for other scientists.

This one-of-a-kind pilot scale lab helps create and produce some very interesting projects, including the food that NASA feeds to its experimental rats – both planet-side and in outer space. They have also produced monkey treats for the San Diego Zoo and manatee feed for the University of Florida’s manatee rescue program.

O. H. Kruse Feed Technology Innovation Center

Touring the O.H. Kruse Feed Mill
The O.H. Kruse Feed Technology Innovation Center is a feed research, teaching and production facility. The state-of-the-art facility is fully automated, with all but three machines operated by a central computer. Additionally, K-State is the only program in the country to offer feed science as a major, making the feed mill a unique opportunity to gain hands-on experience.

The feed manufacturing mill produces all the feed fed to the animals at K-State research units as well as conducting experiments. Researchers also work on specialty projects, including on project that formulated 30 different diets for fish in Hawaii, including using macadamia nuts. The mill can also produce fish food that will float at different depths to feed bottom feeders, top feeders and everything in between.

Kansas Wheat Innovation Center

Learning about wheat research at the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center
The Kansas Wheat Innovation Center (KWIC) includes 35,000 square feet of office and research space. The building includes the Syngenta “Speak for Wheat” test kitchen, Heartland Plant Innovations, the Kansas Foundation for Ag in the Classroom, Kansas Wheat offices as well as an advanced breeding laboratory, indoor growth rooms and greenhouses. Additionally, the Wheat Genetics Resource Center is housed at the KWIC and maintains a gene bank of more than 2,500 wheat species accessions.

The indoor, climate-controlled indoor growth rooms allow scientists to grow wheat and conduct experiments year round. Researchers are also able to vernalize winter wheat experiments in the vernalization and tissue culture rooms. The KWIC includes the only air-conditioned greenhouse in Manhattan, which allows researchers to continue their work during hot summer months.

Hal Ross Flour Mill

The Hal Ross Flour Mill is a pilot-scale flour mill. The 22,000 square foot, five-story slipform concrete structure, completed in 2006, contains the same equipment and control systems students will use in their careers.

K-State is also the only university in the United States to offer courses in milling science. The mill allows students not only to learn how to operate a flour mill, but the instructors also can purposefully introduce problems that the students must learn to troubleshoot. Fun fact, the flour produced by the mill is used by K-State’s baking science students for their weekly bake sale at Shellenberger Hall.

Kansas Crop Improvement Association

Wrapping up the tour of the grain science complex at Kansas Crop Improvement Association.
The Kansas Crop Improvement Association is a not-for-profit corporation that is the designated authority for certifying seed in Kansas. Their building outdates the others on the Grain Science Complex, having been built in 1986.

The Kansas Crop Improvement Association has three primary functions: ensuring labels for certified seeds are accurate, verifying that the seed meets certification standards as well as some regulatory testing. Executive director Steve Schuler explained that certified seed is like consumer protection for farmers, ensuring that the kernels they plant have the maximum germination rate possible as well as meeting stringent quality standards.

A state can set higher standards for grain than the federal minimum standards, and that is exactly what the members of the Kansas Crop Improvement Association are doing. For example, certified seed growers must submit a 10 pound sample for analysis for every 5,000 acres produced. In comparison, neighboring states only require a single 1.5 pound sample, no matter the acres planted. This provides a better representation of the certified seed fields as well as superior detection of inert matter, other crop seeds and wheat seeds.

By Julia Debes