March 5, 2021
Division of Agriculture announces first horticulture-focused discovery farm
By the U of A System Division of Agriculture
- Arkansas Discovery Farm Program has focused on row crop production since 2008
- Division of Agriculture partnering with Peach Pickin’ Paradise in Lamar, Ark.
- Project to focus on irrigation challenges unique to commercial horticulture production
CLARKSVILLE, Ark. — Horticulture producers in Arkansas and throughout the region may soon benefit from one of the state’s most successful research models: the Arkansas Discovery Farm Program.
Since 2008, researchers with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture have conducted edge-of-field monitoring on 12 row and field crop farms and livestock operations throughout the state. The research helps growers avoid the over-application of fertilizers and other inputs, saving the producers money and improving the health of both soil and waterways.
In 2021, the Division of Agriculture aims to bring those same research techniques to specialty crop production in the Southeast, which offers its own unique challenges.
“Irrigation management in perennial fruit crops can be difficult, but is extremely important,” Amanda McWhirt, extension horticulture crops specialist for the Division of Agriculture, said. “It has a direct impact on the volume and quality of the fruit produced.”
McWhirt said that horticulture crop producers frequently struggle with efficiently managing irrigation, often either under- or over-irrigating. The plan for the Horticulture Discovery Farm, then, is two-fold: to develop better irrigation practices for specialty crops and to provide specialty crop growers an on-farm demonstration of these practices.
In establishing the project, Mike Daniels, extension water quality and nutrient management specialist for the Division of Agriculture, Andrew Sharpley, retired professor of Crop, Soil and Environmental Science, McWhirt and others partnered with Steve and Mark Morgan, owners and operators of Peach Pickin’ Paradise just outside of Clarksville in Johnson County, Arkansas.
“The Morgan family has been farming peaches since the 1920s and are well respected in their community and across the state,” McWhirt said. “This makes them ideal candidates for hosting a specialty crop Discovery Farm, as they are already model growers who other growers look to as an example of success.”
McWhirt said that because the Morgan family’s operation involves both cattle and fresh-market specialty crops, they are keenly aware of federal Food Safety Modernization Act rules, which govern water testing for potential human and livestock pathogens.
“Discovery Farms have shown to be successful across the state of Arkansas, allowing researchers to demonstrate effective, research-based recommendations in an on-farm setting,” McWhirt said. “With our Horticulture Discovery Farm at Peach Pickin’ Paradise, we hope to develop much-needed irrigation recommendations for specialty crop growers across the Southeast and improve irrigation conservation practices for specialty crops in Arkansas.”
About the Division of Agriculture
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system.
The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons 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.
# # #
University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service