Farms are places of year-round activity. There is almost always something going on, regardless of the season. Each month we highlight one of our research stations and the work taking place on the farm during that month as well as give a little insight into the world of farming and innovative agricultural research.
There are 18 research stations across the state, operated in partnership between the department, N.C. State University and N.C. A&T State University. The stations are strategically located to account for different soil types, climates, crops and livestock production. Department staff manage the day-to-day operations of the stations and the research field work, while researchers from the universities set up the parameters of the research. This month we are highlighting the Upper Coastal Plain Research Station in Rocky Mount.
Field days are important outreach opportunities for research stations, where farmers and visitors can see research being conducted firsthand in a field setting and gain new insights into production techniques from researchers. The staff with the Upper Coastal Plain Research Station has been busy in recent weeks getting the station ready for Cotton Field Day on Sept. 10 and a Wild Soybean Breeding Tour on Sept. 30. A Sorghum and Corn Aflatoxin Control Field Day was held Aug. 14. These events draw farmers from near and far in Eastern North Carolina because of the widespread production of these crops in this part of the state.
The Upper Coastal Plain Research Station has been showcasing its agricultural research work for a long time, as it is the oldest of the 18 state-operated stations in the state, starting on a trial basis in 1902. The station has about 450 acres in research trials. Dr. Clyde Bogle has been the station superintendent for over 24 years.
Cotton, soybeans, sorghum and corn are not the only crops at the station. It also produces burley and flue-cured tobacco, peanuts, small grain and small acreages of other crops. In fact, in one field visitors can see burley tobacco growing beside flue-cured tobacco, something that does not occur in real life. The site contains three black shank nurseries and Granville wilt nursery for developing disease management strategies and disease-resistant cultivars in tobacco, Sclerotina and CBR disease nurseries for fields involved in weed and insect studies. Weed management strategies are being developed for the various crops utilizing nearly 50 acres devoted to weed nurseries. Also, insect management studies are being conducted in tobacco, cotton, soybeans and corn.
Creig Deal, a research specialist who manages all crop trials other than tobacco, recently showed off some of the work on the station, and crops and test plots looked good with a few obvious exceptions — fields being used for weed control and disease and insect research.
In a normal growing situation, farmers would try to keep weeds from growing up with plants, Deal said, but in a research situation rows that have been treated for weeds and those left untreated illustrate the effectiveness of various types of weed control. In another field, Dan Mott, an agricultural research specialist with N.C. State University, was looking for insects in a cotton field. Using two flat wooden sticks and a black canvas, Mott hit the leaves of the cotton plant knocking loose any insects in the plant onto the canvas. Then he quickly counted and inventoried the insects so he would know the insect pressure in the field.
Farmers routinely survey fields for pests as part of day-to-day management of crops.
Research is expected to help farmers meet future food needs by finding new plants and techniques to increase yields and efficiencies on the farm. The United Nations predicts farmers will need to increase production by 75 to 100 percent by 2050, so agricultural research will be critical going forward.
Learning what doesn’t work is equally as important as what does work when it comes to agricultural production, and saves farmers the time and expense of having to do their own experiments to improve crop production. A calendar of field days planned at the research stations can be found here.