Our research center

Published 11:12 am Wednesday, April 24, 2013

by Dell Cotton

Well, spring finally made it! We knew it would come, even as we shivered through those cold, damp days of March. With it comes activity on our area’s farms and in the fields, with farmers preparing to or in some cases beginning to plant this year’s crops.

In our agricultural world the months leading up to spring seem to be dedicated to meetings. Farmers are invited to various gatherings where they get updated on the latest in research, hear about the newest crop practices they need to use in the field, get the latest on their agricultural organization, or get recertified to do some of the activities necessary on the farm.

In the past few weeks I have had the pleasure to attend an unusually frequent number of meetings at the Tidewater Research Center near Holland on U.S. 58. During one of these meetings, I had a moment where I actually really thought about where I was.

The Tidewater Research Station is one of 12 Agricultural Research and Extension Centers located throughout the state. All of these stations along with, of course, the main campus at Virginia Tech, and including Virginia State, make up the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station (VAES) system. Farm and forest land used for VAES programs at the 12 off campus Centers total 4,000 acres, and faculty at these sites conduct research that addresses issues related to specific commodities.

I would have to write much more than just this column to let you really know about the Tidewater Center. This is a research facility, with field and laboratory work being conducted on peanuts, cotton, soybeans, small grains, corn, swine, and vegetables along with insects, diseases, weeds, and water management. The researchers are Virginia Tech faculty members who at times teach classes on campus.

We are very fortunate to have many nationally known researchers accessible to us right here at the Station. Many of these individuals have statewide responsibility for their area of expertise.

The Center also hosts graduate students from the Blacksburg campus who come here to finish course work or get experience toward their degrees.

The work of the station reaches out far beyond the few hundred acres located there at the Center. Extension agents located in most counties help carry out the mission of the Virginia Experiment system, and those agents in our local counties have very strong ties to the Tidewater Center.

Further, besides field trials being grown at the station, there are also test plots grown on local farms overseen by the center’s researchers.

The entire facility, besides the farm land, includes offices, laboratories, swine research barns, an engineering shop, greenhouses, and an auditorium.The auditorium is used by numerous outside interests for meetings on a regular basis.

This center was originally located here for a reason as our area is the most diverse in the state in terms of row crops and still remains very agriculturally dependent. This is the only center with peanut work, and also is the center that does most of the cotton work.

The state soybean specialist and the state swine specialist are located there, along with other nationally prominent researchers.

This short article was never intended to describe all that goes on at Virginia Tech’s Tidewater Station. Maybe, though, the next time you pass by that older looking brick building with the Virginia Extension sign out front surrounded by fields that you will know a bit more about what happens there and you will understand why all of us in agriculture in Southeastern Virginia, from the farm community to master gardeners to the homeowner with a yard and garden, are glad we can call it our own.