Research Stations - Sandhills Research Station
Research programs at the Sandhills Research Station include plant breeding for new variety development and improvement, cultural management practices of crops, adaptability of crops to the local environment and soils as well as the management of weeds, diseases, insects and other agricultural deterrents. Field experiments and research help growers improve quality and increase the yield of crops suitable for production in the sandhills region.
More than 20 varieties of peaches have been developed at the station. In addition to developing new varieties, researchers also study ways to control diseases, weeds and insects. Cultural management practices like pruning, thinning, irrigation and fertility are also evaluated. Blackberries and raspberries are evaluated at SRS for their productivity and adaptation to the local area. In addition to developing new varieties, blackberries are also used to evaluate new uses of pesticides through the IR-4 specialty crops program. Strawberries are grown at SRS for a number of different projects. Strawberry stock plants are produced as Foundation and Registered parents for the strawberry certification program. Blueberry cultivars are developed with traits that consumers and growers want. Good tasting, high yielding varieties are developed through research at SRS. Presently, several new and very promising selections of peaches are being evaluated for future release. Other fruit crops such as blueberries, brambles and strawberries are being studied and developed as prospects for production as alternatives to more traditional crops in the sandhills such as tobacco. A day-neutral strawberry is being developed which will potentially provide fruit for growers in this area from spring until late fall. Blackberry and raspberry research is poised for significant expansion at SRS to meet the needs of a rapidly expanding industry in North Carolina.
Soybean, peanut, corn and small grain studies have increased at SRS in the past few years. Uniform, deep sandy soils of Sandhills Research Station are ideal for evaluating drought resistance in many crops. Corn research focuses on the development of more disease resistant, higher yielding, widely adapted corn hybrids. Cotton is grown at the station to screen breeding lines for hardiness and drought tolerance. Scientists are optimistic that new varieties of soybeans will soon be released which will increase soybean yields by virtue of improved drought tolerance. This could have significant economic impact for soybean producers in North Carolina and across the nation.
Butterfly Bush and RedBud are two species of particular interest in the relatively new ornamental research program at SRS. Improved and novel varieties of these landscape plants as well as weeping and red leaf form of the redbud tree are being developed at SRS. Small, compact butterfly bushes of various colors are also being developed.
Turfgrass research plots are maintained at SRS to mimic golf courses, athletic fields and home lawns. Researchers study the environmental impacts of turf; control of pests such as insects, weeds and diseases, as well as cultural evaluations like traffic tolerance and mowing height effect on turf quality. Furthermore, the impact of heat and drought stress on weed competition and turf vigor is evaluated. Variety trials are used to determine adaptability of different cultivars to our local climate and soils.