From garden to plate, field day presents latest research, information on growing vegetablesJuly 8, 2011
Dennis Motes, Director, Vegetable Research Station
Fred Miller, Agricultural Communication Services
KIBLER, Ark. — More than 300 participants learned about ways the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture is helping develop new agricultural markets and specialty crops to help the state boost its agricultural economy during a field day at the division’s Vegetable Research Station June 30.
Dennis Motes, station director, said this year’s event emphasized research and information for gardeners and small farms. Visitors toured research plots, saw demonstrations and got their hands on the latest information on growing, preparing and serving vegetables.
Mark Cochran, U of A vice president for agriculture, told field day visitors that the Division of Agriculture is researching alternative agricultural crops that could help develop profitable niche markets. He cited university breeding programs that are known worldwide for developing vegetable and other crop varieties that are used throughout the state, nation and world.
Cochran pointed participants to research plots for edamame, a vegetable soybean common in Asia and growing in popularity throughout the United States. Soybean breeder Pengyin Chen has been developing improved varieties of edamame adapted to grow in Arkansas.
Edamame is rich in carbohydrates and protein and is a good source of fiber, omega-3 fatty acids and micronutrients. Green edamame pods are boiled or steamed and seasoned with salt and spices. They are eaten by popping the beans from the pod into the mouth. Shelled beans are also used in salads, soups, stews and dips or mixed with other vegetables.
The Division of Agriculture is leading a task force on edamame’s potential as a River Valley crop. The task force is working with WinRock International, among others, to bring commercial edamame production to the area.
“I think this has real potential,” Cochran said, “and I think that’s one of the things we have to offer, to look at some of those new discoveries that come in.”
Citing tight economic times for the state, Cochran said he had formed a group to look at specialty crops for potential new markets that could help boost Arkansas’ agricultural economy.
“I’ve asked them to give us some guidance as to how we can use the resources we have to best support the industry at large,” Cochran said. “I think they have 21 different crops that are under consideration. They’re looking at economic potential, they’re looking at our resources and our ability to help on it. We would sure like to see the specialty crop industry grow in this state.”
Cochran said other states have capitalized on specialty crops. “In Georgia, the second biggest revenue generator after poultry is the specialty crops industry,” he said.
“So I think there are better times ahead,” Cochran said. “We want to play a role in trying to grow that using the resources we have.”
Field day visitors also saw research plots for pest management, plant nutrition, organic gardening and other studies. Educational topics included container gardening, wildlife control, irrigation, growing and using herbs, tomatoes, peppers and sweet corn. A cooking demonstration showed visitors how to prepare and enjoy Arkansas fresh fruit and vegetables in healthy and tasty ways.
Educational booths covered such topics as composting, making and using rain barrels, dealing with fire ants, produce and marketing and other topics. The U of A Plant Diagnostic Lab plant operated a plant disease clinic.
The field day also featured educational and fun activities for children and a farmers market offering Arkansas produce and other products.