Opened in 1976, the Sand Plain Research Farm at Becker, Minn., is affiliated with the University of Minnesota's College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences and the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station. Its primary mission is to conduct research on agronomic and horticultural crops under both irrigated and non-irrigated conditions.

Comprising 285 acres directly north of Xcel Energy's Sherco coal-burning power plant some 45 miles northwest of the Twin Cities, the center leases the land from Xcel Energy to conduct agricultural and environmental research. The station provides labor, land and technical support for a large number of cooperating projects.

The station has five irrigation wells with a total pumping capacity of 1,300 gallons a minute. These wells are connected and pump irrigation water through a main line that consists of roughly 11,100 feet of 6- and 8-inch-diameter aluminum pipe; smaller pipe branches into about 45 acres where irrigation is needed.