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Move to Ithaca


A new chapter in BTI research began in 1978, when the institute moved to facilities built for it on the campus of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

The advantages of cooperation with university research programs had been argued from the time the institute was being planned. Managing Director McNew favored such affiliation, and by the 1970s property taxes in Yonkers, now urbanized, had become burdensome. Both Oregon State University and Cornell University were considered. Each had relevant research programs and was anxious to have the institute, and both the states of Oregon and New York appropriated funding. Ultimately, it was decided that affiliation with Cornell offered the most varied research opportunities. New York State’s offer of $8.5 million for construction of facilities on the Cornell campus was accepted. In 1978 the facilities were ready, and the move was made. Although affiliated with Cornell, the institute maintains its independence with a separate endowment, Board of Directors, business office, and employee benefits program. Close ties between BTI and Cornell foster many collaborative relationships that are beneficial to both institutions.

Richard H. Wellman became managing director in 1974 and served until 1980. He was well qualified for the position, having spent his first fourteen professional years at the institute, followed by a management position with industry that culminated in a vice presidency. Previous to his directorship, he served on the institute’s Research Advisory Committee, the Board of Directors, and a 1973 committee that reviewed the proposals from Oregon State University and Cornell University. During his tenure, the institute’s research focused on global agricultural problems.


A. Carl Leopold joined the staff after the affiliation with Cornell and before the new building on campus was completed. He worked in various labs at Cornell while waiting for new colleagues to arrive. His distinguished career has included studies on plant growth and development, seed viability, seed storage, and desiccation tolerance. Today his preservation method is being commercially tested to dry insulin that can be administered by inhalation. He became the William Crocker Scientist in 1979.

Thomas A. LaRue came to the institute in 1978 from the National Research Council of Canada. He created pea plant mutants deficient in symbiotic nitrogen fixation that are a major resource for identification of the plant genes needed for biological atmospheric nitrogen fixation by cereal plants.

Allan R. J. Eaglesham, from the Rothamsted Experimental Station in England, joined the institute in 1976. He discovered the photosynthetic rhizobia that form stem nodules on certain legumes and opened the opportunity for energy self-sufficiency in the use of atmospheric nitrogen.