Great science cannot be done without a solid infrastructure. To support its focus on building strong interdisciplinary teams and generating world-class research, CAAS has established comprehensive science and technology research facilities, which can be broadly categorized as follows:
Technological Innovation Facilities: Housed at its various affiliated institutes, CAAS has built six National key laboratories, 18 national centers (and sub-centers) for plant and animal variety improvement, five national engineering research centers, 19 comprehensive key laboratories of the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), and 23 specialized key laboratories of MOA. In addition, 13 MOA laboratories undertake quality and safety risk assessment of agro-products.
Scientific Support Facilities: CAAS has constructed two national key facilities, one national long-term gene bank, 10 medium-term gene banks for crop germplasm storage, five national experimental field stations, and 24 MOA experimental field stations. All of these facilities provide data and infrastructure support for ongoing research at CAAS.
Technology Service Facilities: To support technology development, CAAS has built 38 quality, supervision, and inspection centers (at both the national and ministerial level), three national reference laboratories, and three reference laboratories of the World Organisation for Animal Health (formerly the Office International des Epizooties, OIE) and one reference laboratory of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
To boost its scientific research competence, CAAS continues to investment in research infrastructure, and in recent years has successfully built advanced biosafety laboratories, remote sensing application laboratories, bioreactors, modern plant factories, a microorganism culture collection center, and environmentally controlled chambers for animal nutrition research, amongst others. In addition, a national foot-and-mouth disease reference laboratory, a specialized biosafety laboratory for the study of animal-disease prevention and control, and a dioxin research laboratory are all currently under construction.
Major Research Facilities at CAAS
National Key Facilities
The construction of national key facilities is funded by the central government. These facilities are generally large-scale research installations or networked systems and, besides their scientific function, they also serve as a benchmark indicating the level of commitment of the country to national scientific and technological development.
1. National Key Facility for Crop Gene Resources and Genetic Improvement: As China’s first national key facility covering agriculture, this center embodies the significant progress that has been made in China in the area of agricultural science. Research at this facility centers on three major areas: basic research and technological innovation in the genetics and genomics of staple crops, understanding the molecular basis of important crop traits, and the theory and practice of genetic manipulation of economically important crops. Work performed includes identification of genetic resources, investigation of new genes that confer important physical traits, functional genomic research, and innovations in techniques for breeding new varieties of rice, wheat, corn, cotton, soybean, and other crops. Additionally, world-class modern facilities have been created for large-scale, high-throughput genetic analysis, gene cloning, and the generation of novel transgenic plants, as well as a system for preservation of unique crop germplasms.
2. National Center for Agricultural Biosafety: This national center houses a high-risk plant pathogen laboratory, a high-risk insect laboratory, a high-risk plant laboratory, as well as other research facilities for the analysis of agricultural biosafety data, and the early detection and quarantine of dangerous plants, insects, and pathogens. As an internationally recognized agricultural biosecurity facility, the center provides a foundation for agricultural biosafety research in China, providing reliable scientific and technological support for national agricultural biosafety research.
National Key Laboratories
National key laboratories, established and constructed under the auspices of the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), are important bases from which high-level basic research and applied research is organized. They also hire and foster top talent, and conduct high-level academic exchanges. By making advanced equipment and machinery available to researchers, they also play an essential role in scientific and technological innovation in China.
1. National Key Laboratory for Biology of Plant Diseases and Insect Pests: Affiliated with the CAAS Institute of Plant Protection, this is one of China’s preeminent laboratories in the field of plant protection, with projects under way both at home and abroad. It focuses on the basic biology of plant diseases and insect pests, including modes and pathways of outbreaks, and the prevention and control of pathogens and insect pests. It also carries out cutting-edge, creative, and forward-looking research that provides a foundation for the sustainable development of agriculture, food security, and ecological security—and thereby economic security—in China.
2. National Key Laboratory of Animal Nutrition: This key laboratory is co-hosted by the CAAS Institute of Animal Sciences and the China Agricultural University. It is oriented toward supporting the nation’s strategic needs for economic development as well as carrying out research work on basic, critical scientific, and technological issues faced by China’s animal husbandry and feed industries. Further, it undertakes research that provides a theoretical basis as well as practical approaches for addressing resource shortages, safety of livestock and poultry, product quality, and other issues that may impact China’s economy.
3. National Key Laboratory of Rice Biology: This laboratory was jointly established by the China National Rice Research Institute of CAAS and Zhejiang University. Focusing on rice germplasm and molecular breeding techniques, it carries out research into rice biology and cultivation technologies, providing state-of-the-art research facilities. A gene bank of rice mutants has been established by the laboratory that is open to researchers and farmers around the country. This storage bank for mutant rice plants has become a valuable national resource in China.
4. National Key Laboratory of Veterinary Biotechnology: This key laboratory is located at the CAAS Harbin Veterinary Research Institute. It is China’s first National Key laboratory in the veterinary sciences, carrying out research focused on infectious animal diseases and amphixenosis. Researchers investigate the effect of genetic variation on disease pathogenicity, mechanisms of pathogenicity and induced immunity, and the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of various diseases affecting economically important animals. Scientists have access to state-of-the-art equipment and use the latest molecular biology and genetic engineering techniques, making important contributions to animal-disease prevention and control across the country.
5. National Key Laboratory of Veterinary Etiological Biology: Affiliated with the CAAS Lanzhou Veterinary Research Institute, this National Key laboratory investigates major epidemics that endanger livestock health and the etiology of these diseases as a pathway to prevention and control. Research into pathogen functional genomics, pathogen ecology, and mechanisms of infection, pathogenicity, and immunity, are all primary areas of focus. The laboratory’s overarching mission is to support the country’s strategic needs for a robust livestock industry.
6. National Key Laboratory of Cotton Biology: Co-hosted by the CAAS Institute of Cotton Research and Henan University, this laboratory is predominantly engaged in basic cotton biology research and application, including understanding cotton genetic diversity and the genetic underpinnings of fiber quality, stress resistance, and other physical traits. Work is also undertaken to create new cotton varieties. Additionally, the laboratory plays a role in the studies of environmental modulation as it relates to cotton crops.
Key Laboratories of the Ministry of Agriculture
Similarly to the National Key facilities and laboratories, the MOA laboratories form an important part of the nation’s agricultural technology innovation infrastructure. They participate in nurturing outstanding scientific minds, carrying out domestic and international academic exchanges, and creating innovative scientific and technological agriculture products. They are tasked with carrying out both basic and applied research related to agriculture in an attempt to solve technological problems that might be constraining the development of related industries. Key laboratories of MOA are established based on industry needs, the specialized characteristics of a particular region, and the specific disciplines that align with national science priorities. There are two types of laboratories: comprehensive key laboratories and specialized (regional) key laboratories.
1. Comprehensive Laboratories: Based onsite at the relevant CAAS institutes, there are 19 comprehensive key laboratories of MOA that cover a wide range of disciplines, including genetic resource storage, the biology of various crops, and the integrated management of crop pests. In addition to focusing on both basic and applied research, in line with national needs, these laboratories also take the lead in coordinating scientific cooperation (within and outside China, including hosting visiting academics), resource sharing, performance assessments, and also in overseeing work carried out within the specialized key laboratories and at the observation and experimental field stations. They also influence the choice of which disciplines are regarded as nationally important.
2. Specialized Laboratories: There are 23 specialized key laboratories of MOA, also housed within CAAS institutes, covering such areas of study as crop physiology and ecology, crop biology, and water conservation in the cultivation of rain-fed crops. These laboratories receive operational guidance from the comprehensive laboratories and carry out specialized basic and applied research in accordance with national and regional priorities.
National Engineering Technology Research Centers
The primary purpose of the national engineering technology research centers—all constructed under the auspices of MOST—is to strengthen the bridge between scientific and technological research and the actual application of this work in the field, thereby promoting industrialization of new technologies. The centers focus on nurturing industrial-scale production of new products and technologies, the translation of new discoveries to the relevant industries, and stimulating and supporting the creation of new industries while concurrently improving and upgrading traditional industries.
1. National Comprehensive Agricultural Engineering Research Center (Changping): Located in a suburb of Beijing, this center focuses on the cultivation of new varieties of grain crops, vegetables and flowers, and livestock and poultry as well as on technological research and the industrial development of animal feed and new feed additives. Furthermore, the center carries out pilot studies that allow for the smoother transition of new discoveries and technologies into the industrial marketplace.
2. National Feed Engineering Technology Research Center: Co-hosted by the CAAS Feed Research Institute and China Agricultural University, this center serves China’s feed industry and is tasked with researching and developing relevant new hi-tech products as well as distributing up-to-date information about the industry. It also works to review and integrate domestic and international research advances, including advanced technologies imported from outside the country.
3. National Engineering and Technology Research Center for Rapeseed: This center, a collaboration between the CAAS Oil Crops Research Institute and Huazhong Agricultural University, has the goal of improving crop quality and productivity in rapeseed production as well as reducing costs and simplifying the cultivation process. The center engages in research into the breeding, cultivation, and processing of rapeseed as well as facilitates the integration of new technologies into relevant industries. It has developed and introduced a number of new rapeseed varieties, together with more efficient, high-yield cultivation techniques and technologies for plant processing and utilization.
4. National Engineering and Technology Research Center for the Tea Industry: Based at the CAAS Tea Research Institute, this center supports the industrial objectives of efficiently producing high-quality, safe, and ecologically sustainable tea crops as well as conducting research and development to generate technologies that benefit the tea industry. Applied research from bench experiments up to small-scale pilot studies can be carried out in the well-appointed laboratory facilities, providing a clear path from discovery to industrialization.
National Facilities for Crop and Animal Improvement and Germplasm Resource Preservation
The creation, safe storage, and preservation of genetic resources are important considerations in agricultural research, particularly as underutilized or genetically modified varieties are more frequently seen as economically valuable commodities. The national facilities for crop improvement and germplasm preservation engage in basic and applied research to genetically improve plants and animals through modern breeding and transgenic techniques. New varieties and breeds have been developed and are stored for research and industrial use both inside and outside China.
1. National Facilities for Crop and Animal Improvement: Through collaborations with related institutes, CAAS has successively built 14 national crop improvement centers and one sub-center, covering rice, wheat, oil crops, soybean, cotton, bast fiber crops, vegetables, tea, tobacco, citrus, sericulture, and forage. In addition, CAAS constructed the National Livestock and Poultry Molecular Breeding Center, the National Milk Quality Improvement Center, and the National Experimental Animal Resource Center for Poultry. Infrastructure and equipment at these centers have recently been updated, providing state-of-the-art laboratories for the genetic modification and improvement of agricultural plants and animals, and for the creation of new, economically important varieties.
2. National Facilities for Crop Germplasm Preservation: CAAS has constructed a national long-term storage gene bank for crop germplasm, 10 medium-term storage gene banks for cereal crops, vegetables, cotton, oil crops, bast fiber crops, melon, forage crops, and tobacco.
Experimental Field Stations
The testing of new, experimental crops requires, by its nature, large tracts of land and relatively stable environmental conditions. Experimental stations dotted around China form the foundation for numerous field experiments as well as providing monitored environments suitable for “real-world” crop trials.
In addition to five national-level and 24 ministerial-level experimental field stations, CAAS has set up another 93 research and test bases across China, located in 25 provinces, municipalities, and autonomous regions. They form an academy-wide network of test sites that cover all of the major agricultural areas in the country. These bases have played important roles in many of the major scientific accomplishments of CAAS in recent years, including the creation of super rice, transgenic insect-resistant cotton, “double-low” rapeseed, dwarf sterile wheat, and transgenic phytase corn.
The five national-level experimental stations are described below.
1. National Crop Germplasm Resources Field Observation and Research Nursery Network: Based at the Institute of Crop Sciences, 32 field observation nurseries have been built in 21 provinces, municipalities, and autonomous regions across China. The network covers five different climate zones, namely (moving from north to south): cold temperate, temperate, warm temperate, subtropical, and tropical. The nurseries encompass complex and diverse ecosystems with rich germplasm resources and, for nearly 30 years, have formed a network of systematic, unified research bases that have provided a valuable source of observational field data.
2. National Soil Fertility and Fertilizer Efficiency Monitoring Network: This network carries out research on long-term changes in soil fertility, fertilizer utilization rates, and fertilizer agronomy as well as the ecological and environmental effects of fertilizers on different soil types in different geographical regions. Other topics of study include the evolution of soil quality across different climate zones, determination of optimal fertilization systems, and the environmental effects of intensive farming waste recycling.
3. Red Soil Experimental Station (Qiyang, Hunan province): This field station focuses on long-term variation in the ecology of the red soil hilly regions of mid-south China, and how human agricultural activities impact the environment over time. These studies are important in understanding how best to preserve the sustainable development of agriculture and prevent degradation of the farmland ecosystem. Experiments are also carried out to determine the most effective and efficient technology for use in red soil and assess the best models for sustainable agricultural in the region.
4. National Grassland Ecosystem Observation and Research Station (Hulunber, Inner Mongolia): The main mission of this station is to engage in research on various natural processes and the effect of human activities on the grassland ecosystem. Experiments are performed to develop theories and technology that enable active agricultural production with minimal impact on grassland ecology. Three main research areas include long-term grassland ecology, remote sensing of grassland ecology, and the development of technology for regional agriculture and animal husbandry.
5. National Scientific Observation Station for Farmland Ecosystem (Shangqiu, Henan Province): Work at this station mainly focuses on systematic allocation, optimization, and regulation of farmland and agricultural ecosystem resources. In particular, long-term studies are carried out on optimizing irrigation water use and on changes in the farmland ecosystem on the Huanghuai plain. This research reveals those human and environmental factors impacting farmland ecosystems, and enables the establishment of systems for evaluating how best to make use of the land for production, while maintaining a healthy ecosystem.
National Reference Laboratories
The national reference laboratories established by CAAS engage in basic and applied research over a broad range of topics related to the preventing and controlling animal diseases in China, including addressing major technical hurdles in dealing with animal epidemics and providing a scientific basis for developing strategies for handling major disease outbreaks as well as offering technical and material support for the diagnosis, prevention, control, and eradication of disease.
1. National Reference Laboratory for Avian Influenza: This laboratory undertakes epidemiological investigations of animal influenza, viral strain monitoring, influenza virus collection and long-term storage, development and optimization of diagnostic protocols, development and standardization of related diagnostic reagents, development of new vaccines and immunization program formulation, studies of viral pathogenesis and acquired immunity, and research into food safety.
2. National Reference Laboratory for Foot-and-Mouth Disease: Research undertaken at this laboratory includes the diagnosis, quarantine, epidemiological monitoring, immune prevention, and pathogen biology study of foot-and-mouth disease and swine vesicular disease as well as the development of relevant products. Housed within this laboratory are a virus bank and a serum bank—plus associated databases—that provide the biological samples and information needed for research into the prevention of foot-and-mouth disease.
3. National Reference Laboratory for Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia: Epidemiological investigation of contagious bovine pleuropneumonia (CBPP) is carried out at this reference laboratory, including research and development of diagnostic techniques for CBPP, and the formulation and regular revision of diagnostic standards. This work has helped enable China to apply for the status of a “CBPP-free country.”
In addition to those mentioned above, another four reference laboratories at CAAS have been recognized by OIE and FAO. They are the OIE Reference Laboratory for Avian Influenza, the OIE Reference Laboratory for Equine Infectious Anemia, the OIE Reference Laboratory for Foot-and-Mouth Disease, and FAO Reference Center for Animal Influenza.
National Service Facilities for Risk Assessment and Testing of Agro-Product Quality and Safety
These national service facilities were established to help ensure the quality and safety of agro-products produced in China.
1. Risk Assessment Laboratories of MOA for Quality and Safety of Agro-products: A total of 13 risk assessment laboratories engage in research and analysis related to the monitoring of risks associated with agro-product quality and safety as well as the optimization of early warning systems. Those products covered include cereals crops, oil crops, dairy products, vegetables, fruit, and bee products, amongst others. Associated tasks such as setting up agricultural quality, safety, and testing standards, as well as evaluating and handling national agricultural emergencies, are also under the purview of these laboratories.
2. National and Ministerial Product Quality Supervision, Inspection, and Testing Centers: CAAS has established three national product quality supervision, inspection, and testing centers for feed, fertilizer, and plant protection equipment, respectively, as well as 27 ministerial centers for crops, animal products, and agricultural machinery covering cereals crops, oil crops, vegetables, milk, and biogas equipment. These centers are involved in overseeing countrywide production and testing of product quality, as well as routine monitoring of agricultural production on a local level, including the performance of spot testing and general inspection of quality and safety of agro-products, risk monitoring, product quality certification, and market access. Other tasks assigned to these centers include the exchange of technical information between centers, training of inspectors, policy guidance, and providing consultation services related to quality and safety testing of agro-produce grown domestically and abroad.