Friday, July 15, 2011

Ag Research

Aberdeen Celebrates Centennial During Twilight Tour July 21

Written by Bill Loftus
ABERDEEN, Idaho – Dreams of bountiful harvests of potatoes, wheat and other crops provided the seed that grew into the University of Idaho’s field station at Aberdeen a century ago.

The University of Idaho’s Aberdeen Research and Extension Center now supports state, regional and national research teams that have worldwide impact.

A centennial celebration is planned for Thursday, July 21, at the Aberdeen Research and Extension Center during its Twilight Tour from 5 to 8 p.m. The tour is held every other year as the center’s invitation to community members to visit and learn about its programs. The center is located at 1693 S 2700 W in Aberdeen.

The tour, which is free and open to the public, will stick with tradition by combining food, fun, games, live music and the chance to hear from researchers about their work.

University and city leaders will gather to help celebrate its centennial and the success of potatoes, wheat and Idaho agriculture.

Aberdeen and University of Idaho leaders joined forces in 1911 to help agriculture prosper as an economic force in the area’s future. They knew science would help make their vision reality.

Aberdeen, the center of potato breeding research in the Northwest, will present visitors with a new challenge this year: a potato sack lifting contest.

A century ago, the Aberdeen Commercial Club wanted to build a partnership with the University of Idaho that would help the area’s major industry: agriculture. The club, Bingham County Commission, Aberdeen Valley Land and Development Co., and individuals contributed $4,500.

They donated a $4,500 to fund a 15-year lease on 80 acres and three or four buildings to the university to establish a research center. “From that tiny donation, the center has grown to include 460 acres and 22 scientists who lead teams that help keep Idaho agriculture productive. There’s a lot of work going on,” said Steve Love, center superintendent at Aberdeen.

“The partnership between the USDA Agricultural Research Service and the university’s Idaho Agricultural Experiment Station helps make Idaho agriculture one of Idaho’s economic powerhouses and a leader worldwide,” said John Hammel, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences dean.

The College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and its critical outreach branch, University of Idaho Extension, work closely with state commissions devoted to potatoes, wheat, barley and other crops.

College-based teachers and researchers prepare the state’s growers and agricultural leaders for the future. Extension researchers develop better production methods, plant breeding and pest control methods that help growers compete economically and provide a safe, nutritious food supply.

“A hundred years ago,” Hammel said, “Aberdeen’s leaders understood the promise of agriculture and the value agricultural scientists could bring to the community and to the state. The Aberdeen Research and Extension Center and Idaho agriculture continue show how wise Aberdeen’s leaders were to make that investment.”

Every potato variety developed for production in the Northwest by scientists at the University of Idaho, Washington State University and Oregon State University undergoes field testing at Aberdeen. The USDA Agricultural Research Service-led breeding program delivers new varieties that fit market needs. State researchers help refine selections and develop variety-specific production methods.

The federal Agricultural Research Service chose Aberdeen as the base for its National Small Grains Collection, dedicating a modern building to house research in 1988. In 2006, officials dedicated a new wing, the Germplasm Research Facility and Advanced Genetics Laboratory at Aberdeen.

“There’s been tremendous agronomic and breeding work done here,” Love said. “We’ve had a tremendous impact on the state’s agriculture, and potato programs have been a significant part of the growth of Idaho’s potato industry.”

More information about the Aberdeen Research and Extension Center and its history is available at

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