New NDSU agricultural research laboratory named for pioneering plant pathologist

Fargo, N.D. — North Dakota State University’s new agricultural research laboratory will soon be named the Bolley Agricultural Laboratory after receiving approval from the State Board of Higher Education last month. The North Dakota Legislature appropriated $97 million for the construction of this facility during the 2023 legislative session, which has been matched with $3.6 million in philanthropic funds.

The Bolley Agricultural Laboratory will be one of the largest capital construction projects in NDSU history and will house a variety of agricultural research programs including plant pathology, plant breeding, weed science, agronomy, soil science, and horticulture.

“This cornerstone facility will accelerate the rate of progress in delivering agronomic and plant breeding solutions that are needed for agricultural production systems in North Dakota and keep North Dakota producers competitive in a global marketplace,” Greg Lardy, the Joe and Norma Peltier Vice President for Agriculture, said.

The laboratory’s namesake, Henry L. Bolley, was one of the first faculty members at North Dakota Agricultural College, now NDSU. He was also founder and coach of the University’s football team and the first plant pathologist in the North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station.

“Dr. Bolley was a pioneer in research and delivered innovative and creative research solutions that allowed the early agricultural pioneers in our state to be successful, combat plant diseases, and successfully raise crops in our environment,” Greg said. “His pioneering spirit and problem-solving ability are symbolic of the great character exhibited by generations of agriculturalists in North Dakota. Naming the building after him is a fitting tribute to the important legacy he has left for North Dakota agriculture.”

Born in Indiana and educated at Purdue University, Henry served as the state seed commissioner from 1909 to 1929. He wrote and advocated for the North Dakota Pure Seed and Weed Law and developed the state’s Certified Seed program and an herbarium at the University. One of his proudest scientific contributions is cited as the link between barberry bushes and rust spores contaminating wheat crops, which emphasized the importance of breeding and selecting cereals for rust resistance. He taught at NDAC from 1890 to 1945 and received honorary doctorates from Purdue University and NDAC in recognition of his years of research and service.

“I extend my heartfelt gratitude to the family of Henry L. Bolley for their shared enthusiasm and support for the future of agricultural innovation at NDSU,” NDSU President Dave Cook said after a recent visit with Henry’s great-nieces, a great-nephew, and a great-great-niece. “I am overwhelmed by the gracious and passionate people I met and how much familial commitment there is to pursuing education and societal advancement. I do not doubt that Henry L. Bolley’s legacy of excellence and innovation will thrive for generations to come.”

The Bolley Agricultural Laboratory will be located on the western edge of NDSU’s campus and will overlook agricultural plots immediately adjacent to campus. It will replace many of the current field lab facilities constructed decades ago, providing NDSU scientists with the space, equipment, and technology to drive innovation in several key areas related to the state’s agricultural industry and biggest economic sector. Construction is anticipated to begin in the summer of 2024.


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Bethany Hardwig 
Vice President of Alumni and Donor Connections 
NDSU Foundation