Research Stations - Upper Mountain Research Station
UMRS is the highest elevation in the state and its research program reflects the diversity of agriculture in the mountains of Northwestern North Carolina. The main focus of research has been on cold tolerance and forage management. Due to UMRS location, continuing research is performed on Christmas trees, burley tobacco, small fruits, small grains, organic vegetable production, mushrooms and a vineyard.
Northwestern North Carolina is the major producer of the Fraser Fir Christmas tree, with Ashe County being the leader in production. Since 1989, research has been centered on fertilization, ground covers, bud abortion, needle retention, shearing practices, vegetative management, integrated pest management, clonal archive and genetic tolerance to insect pests.
Work is being done on blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, and grapes to determine the best variety selections for the northwestern area. Researchers are implementing a growing system for the commercial production of strawberries in the region for five months out of the year. Research on the station has also led to the release of a new variety of red raspberry named “Nantahala.”
Burley tobacco work has involved all agronomic areas. These studies have included projects in breeding, fertilization, insect control, disease prevention, weed control and no-till system development.
Livestock work is centered on the utilization of forage. Like much of Northwestern North Carolina, the majority of the land at UMRS is unsuited for cultivation. Management intensive grazing experiments are conducted with the cattle and goatherds. Past forage work saw the development of West Jefferson mineral, a supplement with selenium, which is very low in the mountain pastures.
UMRS has started a 10-year study comparing the recommended management practices for a farmer’s pasture and herd in contrast to a farmer that is not following the recommended practices. Researchers developed an A-frame structure for goats that will aid farmers in cutting down their labor for trimming hooves. Past research saw the utilization of corn gluten and soy hulls, local by-products, as an alternative feed source for cattle.