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Celebrating 35 Years

A Brief History of the Center for Crops Utilization Research — 1984-2019

historyIn the 1980s a crisis existed in American farming—a crisis of overproduction, underutilization, and decreasing international market share for raw commodities. Also, the United States’ growing dependence on imported oil and long-term forecasts for increasing oil prices put America at risk.

To address this crisis, CCUR was established in 1984 through a special appropriation from the Iowa legislature. The center was tasked to respond to the urgent need to improve America’s agricultural competitiveness. Its mission: to increase the demand for Iowa and Midwestern-grown crops by developing new products, markets, and processing techniques, as well as, improving the understanding of the basic properties of agricultural products and their components.

CCUR’s research activities focused on developing new technologies for producing food and industrial products from agricultural materials; developing agricultural substitutes for petrochemicals; and exploring and modifying the functional properties of crop-derived materials through applied biotechnology.

The center also focused on successful technology transfer to industry by utilizing pilot plant facilities designed to demonstrate proof-of-concept by scaling up lab studies into commercially viable processes and products. CCUR raised nearly $18 million to build new pilot-scale processing facilities. These state-of-the-art pilot plants were the first of their kind at Iowa State University and in Iowa. Support for the new center included appropriations not only from the State of Iowa but from the U.S. Congress and numerous grants from commodity groups, public agencies, and private industry.



The Iowa Legislature appropriates $200,000 to establish the Food Crops Processing Research Center in the Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station at Iowa State University.

The Biopolymers and Biocomposites Research Team (BBRT) is established in 1995 to promote the research and development of biorenewable polymers, plastics, films, and composites from agricultural feedstocks.

The Iowa Grain Quality Initiative responds to the StarLink situation, providing educational and legal resources to the public. History Channel’s Modern Marvels airs episode about corn that features CCUR’s Johnson and Steve Fox.

The BioCentury Research Farm (BCRF) is dedicated on September 22. The BCRF is a College of Agriculture and Life Sciences facility and is managed by CCUR. It is the first-in-the-nation integrated research and demonstration facility dedicated to biomass production and processing.