ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Federal agencies have broken ground in St. Paul for a state-of-the-art greenhouse that will help combat a growing threat to the world’s wheat and barley supplies.

The 2,880-square-foot greenhouse will be operated by the Agricultural Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Scientists will use it to battle crop diseases such as a virulent form of wheat rust called Ug99.

The greenhouse is funded through a $4.5 million deal between USDA and the U.S. Agency for International Development. It will increase the controlled growing space at the ARS Cereal Disease Laboratory at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul, and boost the lab’s analytic capacity five-fold.

The groundbreaking is part of a four-day conference that has drawn 400 of the world’s top wheat and barley experts to St. Paul.

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