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By Dave EdmarkThe Cooperative Extension ServiceU of A System Division of Agriculture
(513 words)FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – While faculty scientists were exploring the impact of high tunnels
for agricultural production this summer, Bailey Smith and Kenneth Buck were in the
lab and field learning both research and horticulture contributing to the fundamental
understanding of how tunnels affect crops.
Smith, a biological and agricultural engineering undergraduate at the University of
Arkansas, spent 10 weeks working under the supervision of UA System Division of Agriculture
faculty in the Eco Research Experience for Undergraduates program. She was invited
to assist in research on sustainable production systems for horticultural crops, particularly
the benefits of winter cover crops in high tunnel tomato production. The Eco REU program
is a collaborative effort of the UA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National
“I was able to learn what scientific research is like in the real world,” said Smith,
a UA junior biological engineering major. “You need to be innovative in order to compensate
for the unexpected inevitable issues and to take advantage of opportunities as they
occur. I think it was very beneficial for me to experience challenges in my research
this summer with the effects of winter cover crops on tomato plants, because that
will allow me to overcome them in the future.”
Smith is considering whether to go to graduate school or enter the labor market upon
graduation in 2017. Her summer experience exposed her to the agricultural side of
biological engineering by running the tunnel’s irrigation system, taking readings
on tomato leaves and preparing them for nitrogen analysis, measuring photosynthesis
data in the tunnel and harvesting blackberries and blueberries.
"I realized I have a great curiosity for manipulating plants and crop growing systems,”
she said, adding that her time spent on her research poster presentation for a statewide
agricultural resources conference, an oral presentation and manuscript as the capstone
to the REU experience would prepare her for the future.
Buck, a horticulture major who plans to graduate in 2018, worked in the high tunnel
berry project as part of the Young Scholar Enhancement program sponsored by the U.S.
Department of Agriculture’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program.
He harvested blackberries twice a week, collected data on post-harvest berry quality
comparing fruit from the field to high tunnel production systems, and gained experience
in horticultural crop management including high tunnel management and pest scouting.
He was trying to answer questions about whether or production systems affect fruit
“One of the things that surprised me about the research was how much I worked with
statistics,” Buck said. “Horticulture from a professional perspective is all about
cultivating and caring for plants, but in the world of research the plants essentially
become living data points.”
Curt Rom, a University Professor of horticulture who supervised the high tunnel research
program and the students, said having undergraduate students in our program adds vitality.
“They bring new ideas, new perspectives, and fresh curiosity. They work alongside
and complement the work of our graduate students and give us a continuum of discovery
and learning throughout our lab group. This is hands-on learning at its best.”
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension
and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity,
sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran
status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative
Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
Media Contact: Mary HightowerDir. of Communication ServicesU of A Division of AgricultureCooperative Extension Service(501) firstname.lastname@example.org