Published on 09/01/04

Vegetable scientists study together at new park

By Brad Haire
University of Georgia

University of Georgia vegetable scientists are planting this fall's crops in a place planned to bring quick, usable information to Georgia's growing vegetable industry.

Scientific work often focuses on specific, isolated studies. A study on weeds may ignore disease or insect problems. But a farmer's field isn't like a study plot, said Stanley Culpepper, who chaired the committee that planned the Tifton Vegetable Park.

The 12-acre park will give scientists a place to conduct interdisciplinary research to provide Georgia farmers real-world solutions to their vegetable-crop problems. It's on the Tifton, Ga., campus of the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

"The goal of the park is to provide a place for different disciplines to come together and take a systems approach to vegetable studies," said Culpepper, a weed specialist with the UGA Extension Service. "We can work out ways to better do things as a whole that the growers can take straight to their fields."

Horticulturists, plant pathologists, entomologists, engineers and crop-and-soil scientists with UGA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture will work on research together. The first studies started last spring.

Projects are chosen on their value to vegetable growers, level of interdisciplinary approach, cooperation between research and extension scientists and external funding.

The Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association will advise scientists on issues critical to Georgia's vegetable industry.

The park is a work in progress. Future plans include a small storage and packing shed, where after-harvest handling studies can be conducted.

Funding for the park came from a $144,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture through the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

The state's vegetable industry is growing. In 2003, it was worth about $900 million, up from $660 million in 2002. It ranks about fourth in the nation in total production value.

Brad Haire is the former news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.