North Central Extension & Research Activity–101 (NCERA-101) is a committee of the USDA organized to help plant scientists understand how to use controlled environment technology effectively and consistently. It evolved from a group of plant scientists in the American Society for Horticultural Science, who in 1969, began discussing how to utilize growth chambers effectively to ensure consistent and comparable growth data among laboratories. When the committee was organized in 1976 as the North Central Research -101 (NCR-101) committee, the group was expanded to include all plant science researchers and began encouraging private industry groups to participate. It now has over 130 members from 102 institutions and industries. It assumed a responsibility for developing activities that would provide information to all growth chamber users to ensure consistent and ‘normal’ plant growth. Through these groups, a Handbook for Growth Chambers users was published in 1978 (Langhans, 1978) and revised in 1997 (Langhans & Tibbitts, 1997) along with instrument and reporting guidelines that have been published in many plant science journals. The committee was renamed as NCERA-101 in 2006 to more accurately identify the extension component of its activities.
The committee holds meetings annually, which are hosted by one of its members. A major activity at the meetings has been the exchange of information on new technologies and problems in controlled environments. Each research station represented at the NCERA-101 meeting is required to submit a one-page report summarizing new technologies and unique environmental responses to the committee, and is also given the opportunity to provide an oral summary of important issues for discussion. Industry participants are also invited to present any new technologies or issues. The committee has sponsored two international symposia, one on measurement guidelines in 1978 and one on lighting in 1994, from which documents were prepared (Tibbitts & Kozlowski, 1979; Tibbitts, 1995). In addition, regular workshops on specific aspects of environmental control in controlled environments have been conducted at annual meetings of the American Society of Horticultural Science and the American Society of Agricultural Engineers. Beginning in 2001, the group began actively interfacing with controlled environment groups around the world particularly the UK CEUG (Controlled Environment Users’ Group) in the United Kingdom, and the ACEWG (Australasian Controlled Environment Working Group) with membership from Australia and New Zealand. This led to international meetings being organized in Norwich, England in 2001, Brisbane, Australia in 2004, Kennedy Space Center, Florida in 2008 and Cambridge, England in 2012 (see Meetings). It has also led to the development of internationally accepted guidelines for conducting growth chamber research and tissue culture research (see Guidelines Webpage).