Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station
The Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station conducts a variety of research to support the state’s agricultural industry and economy. AAES research scientists are from Alabama A&M University, Auburn University and Tuskegee University and from extension centers across Alabama. Research is also coordinated with scientists at other state universities, at universities throughout the southeast and at USDA Agricultural Research Service locations throughout the state and region. AAES research is conducted at 16 research centers — two in and near Auburn, and 14 throughout Alabama.
AAES research is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, whose mission is to advance knowledge for agriculture, the environment, human health and well-being and communities by supporting research, education and extension programs in the Land-Grant University System and other partner organizations.
The only Alabama Ag Experiment Station research unit on the AU campus, the Plant Science Research Center offers scientists the opportunity to work in a glass greenhouse structure with state-of–the-art climate and environmental controls and an advanced data acquisition system. Current research areas include field crops, biofuels and vegetable and ornamental plant production.
Located on Interstate 85 between Auburn and Montgomery, E.V. Smith Research Center is the most visible agricultural facility in Alabama. The only facility named for a former AAES director—Edwin V. Smith who served at Auburn from 1929 to 1972—it is also the largest and most comprehensive with research units in dairy cattle, beef cattle, horticulture, plant breeding, field crops and biosystems engineering.
The Tennessee Valley Research and Extension Center is located just north of the Tennessee River, a stone’s throw from Interstate 65, right in the heart of Alabama’s top cotton-producing region and directly on the cutting edge of cotton research. Though TVREC research projects frequently target corn, soybeans and wheat, cotton claims the lion’s share of attention, and it is for its cotton research that the center is nationally recognized.
The TVREC was an early convert to precision agriculture technologies and today has a full inventory of global positioning system–based equipment that includes autosteer tractors, yield monitors and light-bar guidance systems.
Agriculture is the economic lifeblood of northeast Alabama’s rural Sand Mountain region, and for eight decades now, the Sand Mountain Research and Extension Center has played a key role in strengthening the area’s farm sector.
The goal of SMREC research is to develop farm management practices that will help the region’s livestock, poultry, row crop and commercial vegetable producers—particularly small-scale farmers—to operate more efficiently, sustainably and profitably.
The name of the North Alabama Horticultural Research Center east of Cullman is a dead giveaway as to what the 159-acre center is all about. Its sole role is to conduct scientific studies and generate research data that benefits large- and small-scale commercial fruit and vegetable producers in the state’s northern counties.
The NAHRC is one of only two Alabama Ag Experiment Station outlying units with certified organic research plots and uses those plots almost exclusively for studies on organic production of the area’s top three vegetable crops—fresh-market tomatoes, peppers and sweet potatoes.
The uneven terrain of the Upper Coastal Plain Agricultural Research Center could be challenging for row crop production, but for the cattle, pastureland and forage crop management research that takes center stage at the UCPARC, it’s ideal. The 735-acre UCPARC is located in northwest Alabama’s Marion County.
It’s fitting that the Chilton Research and Extension Center is located in the shadow of Clanton’s famous giant peach water tower just off of I-65, because at the CREC, peaches rule. When the center was established in 1944, its mission was to identify superior varieties and develop new management techniques that would help Chilton County’s peach producers maximize their profits. And that’s still its mission today. The CREC does work with other small fruits—most notably kiwifruit—but peaches have priority.
A four-mile-long, eight-foot-high, fixed-knot steel fence constructed in 2007 at the Piedmont Research Unit in Camp Hill completely encloses 430 of the unit’s acres, and that land plus the deer that were on it when the final section of the fence went up comprise what has been dubbed the Auburn University deer lab.
In an exhaustive, multidisciplinary long-term study of the lab’s 40 captive white-tail herd, researchers will generate detailed information on deer biology and behaviors that is expected to significantly impact the scientific management of deer.
Since 1928, the Prattville Agricultural Research Unit has specialized in small-plot research on traditional row crops, primarily cotton. But in 2008, the unit stepped outside the box and began construction of a wildflower garden. The garden is named in honor of Lady Bird Johnson, who until she was a young lady spent her summers with relatives in Autauga County and who later, as the nation’s first lady, was recognized for her environmental conservation and landscape beautification work.
Rolling prairie land and unique soil formations make the Black Belt Research and Extension Center in Marion Junction an excellent location for research on beef cattle and forages. The BBREC’s primary research focus is in the areas of grazing and animal breeding.
In 2008, the Alabama Ag Experiment Station gave what long had been the Lower Coastal Plain Substation a new name—the Auburn University Natural Resources Education Center—and a new mission: to provide research and demonstration sites aimed at teaching private landowners and natural resource professionals how to properly manage and conserve the state’s valuable indigenous assets.
For decades after it was established in 1929, the Monroeville Agricultural Research Unit focused on row crops. But in 2002, the entire unit was planted into longleaf pine seedlings, with all 80 acres in research plots. Research at the MARU focuses on establishment and management of the pines.
A variety of soil types and land characteristics typical of the Coastal Plain allow the Wiregrass Research and Extension Center to address problems that challenge farmers in this region. While the center has been a leader in all types of agronomic research, it is renown for its focus on peanuts.
At the Brewton Agricultural Research Unit, the research emphasis is on woody ornamentals, flowering annuals and vegetables, and the research is carried out with homeowners and landscapers in mind. Because hydrangeas, crape myrtles and shrub roses have been favorites for generations, many BARU studies focus on identifying production practices that can help the trio stay healthier and bloom longer and more prolifically.
The center also is involved in bioenergy research, with studies on switchgrass, bluestem and sorghum for use in biofuel production.
The Ornamental Horticulture Research Center in Mobile is located in an area of Alabama where commercial nurseries abound, and that’s an ideal site for an applied-research facility dedicated primarily to supporting the commercial container-nursery industry. Research at the OHRC focuses on helping producers identify and address pest, disease and other production problems early on. At 17 acres, the OHRC is the smallest among the Alabama Ag Experiment Station’s outlying units.
With its location one mile east of Mobile Bay and 30 miles north of the Gulf of Mexico, the Gulf Coast Research and Extension Center in Fairhope enjoys a climate that’s ideal for a highly diversified research program, and the GCREC takes full advantage of that. The long growing seasons and mostly mild winters allow for research on all of Alabama’s major row crops as well as on turfgrass, vegetable and fruit crops, pecans, beef cattle and forage. The GCREC’s top goal is to help southwest Alabama producers maximize their income.