Fund-raising for a new seed facility at the Williston Research Extension Center is now 80 percent complete, despite an unexpected $400,000 bump in cost for the project.
Jerald Bergman, director of the Williston Research Extension Center, said the jump in cost was primarily due to the “Bakken premium,” but also for costs related to doing business with the state, such as increased bonding requirements.
The total project cost is now around $2.5 million.
The state legislature approved $750,000 toward that cost, and the rest has been contributed from a wide array of community groups, local governments, private businesses, and community leaders.
The building contract for this ground-breaking project in the West has been awarded to Corland Construction, based in Sidney, Montana. Thaat company has already begun moving some equipment to the location for site preparation and is expected to begin work soon.
The construction timeline puts the new seed cleaning facility substantially complete in about 21 weeks, or by Oct. 7.
After that, the actual seed-cleaning equipment can be installed, all with an eye toward using the new facility for the 2020 growing season.
“We normally don’t start seed cleaning until we’re out of the field in late November,” Bergman said. “We will hopefully have the equipment installed and running by December, and then we can use it for this year’s seed cleaning.”
The new facility is going to be a radical leap forward in technology for the region. The new plant will be able to process 200 to 250 bushels of seeds per hour, compared to the old plant, which could only do 35.
That’s not all, of course. The new facility will also be more capable when it comes to sorting pulse crops. Since it is all on one level, it is gentler and won’t cause as many of the seeds to shatter. It includes the ability to sort seeds based on color, such as yellow peas from green, or red lentils from green, and it can defects as well, to get rid of those seeds.
In fact, the new plant is so precise, it will be able to sort spring wheat seeds from durum — which could bring back some durum varieties that have been favorites.
The new seed cleaning facility boost standards of purity for the Foundation Seed program efforts here to 98 percent or better.
“It’s going to be a great pleasure to have the new seed cleaning facility with state-of-the-art equipment for seed cleaning,” Bergman said. “Plus being able to handle more bushels, and it will be so much better for pulses, too. We have had great legislative support from the state and even more amazing the great support from all the contributors. This will help deliver new crop varieties sooner and at higher quality to area growers. We’ll be able to handle more crop varieties and increase very year much more than we have been doing.”
Bergman said the old seed cleaning facility will be offered for sale once removed. After that, efforts will shift to a new capital campaign for a greenhouse, estimated to cost between $400,000 to $500,000.
The greenhouse will bring several benefits to research in the MonDak, among them, allowing more research projects to continue year-round.