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University of Missouri

Glass Rules

The Ernie and Lottie Sears Plant Growth Facility houses the research of 22 scientists.

Greenhouse at night

The Sears Plant Growth Facility includes three levels of supplemental lighting: four glasshouses with 48 lights, four glasshouses with 36 lights and four glasshouses with 24 lights.

Although the footprint of the Ernie and Lottie Sears Plant Growth Facility is less than half an acre, the research occurring inside affects millions of acres of plants worldwide. The facility stands at the former site of Greenhouse No. 10, where the renowned geneticists sowed the seeds of MU’s stature as a world leader in plant sciences research dating from 1936. The current facility, built in 2001, houses the research of 22 scientists.


Soybeans help researchers to understand how legumes convert atmospheric nitrogen into a usable form.


Thousands of such soybeans are part of a study to determine the phenotype of plant root systems.

wheat variety with resistance to Fusarium head blight

MU scientists are leading an effort to map resistance genes. Pictured is a wheat variety with resistance to Fusarium head blight. The research is part of the U.S. Wheat and Barley Fusarium Head Blight Initiative.

state-of-the-art evaporative cooling system

The state‐of‐the‐art evaporative cooling system allows for exact control of air temperatures in the Sears Plant Growth Facility. The ability to tightly control conditions is essential to plant science research.

Maize plants

Maize plants with multicolored kernels are injected with artificial chromosomes that allow genetically complex traits, such as drought tolerance, to be introduced into corn without decreasing yield. Bags are placed on plants to prevent pollination.

seed-storage room door

Panels to the left of the seed‐storage room control temperature and humidity.

Metal boxes are used to store seeds.

Metal boxes are used to store seeds.


Scientists study wheat varieties with resistance to Fusarium head blight, or head scab, a fungal disease that can cause empty seed heads.

Sears Plant Growth Facility sink

The Sears Plant Growth Facility has a large room for potting, planting and washing, in an autoclave. Pest‐control chemicals and disease are minimized by requiring that plants are potted in commercial, sterile media in the room.

refrigerator sign that says it is for food only

The refrigerator in the break room is for food only.


This hallway offers access to the facility’s 12 green houses. Utility pipes line the left wall and evaporative cooling panels are on the right. Automated controls handle temperature, lights and level of sunlight.

glasshouse sections

The Sears Plant Growth Facility has 12 individually controlled glasshouse sections, each about 1,700 square feet.

Sears Plant Growth Facility at night

This photo taken from the roof of the Physics Building shows the Sears Plant Growth Facility’s central location on campus.

reflector lights line

Parabolic aluminized reflector lights line the ceilings of all 12 green houses.


One study seeks to identify maize genes that regulate how and where carbohydrates are allocated. The knowledge is important for biofuel production because plants use their leaves to capture radiant energy (sunlight) and convert it into chemical energy in the form of carbohydrates. These carbohydrates are then distributed, in the form of sucrose, throughout the plant in a process known as carbon partitioning.


Compressors regulate temperature and humidity in seed storage rooms. Temperature is kept at 4 degrees Celsius (40 degrees Fahrenheit), humidity is kept at 40 percent. Exact control over temperature and humidity is needed to maintain seed viability over time.

sorting facility hallway with shelves on either side

The Sears Plant Growth Facility includes three large temperature – and humidity‐controlled cold rooms for seed storage as well as a large seed‐sorting facility equipped with a drying oven. The oven can accommodate 12 roll‐in seed carts.

Seed packets stacked

Seed packets are individually marked for identification.


Thousands of soybeans are being sown in a study to determine the phenotype of the plant root systems.

soybean seedlings

These soybean seedlings are part of a genetic study of drought tolerance. Some soybean plants are more tolerant of drought than others.