South Atlantic Area
U. S. Vegetable Laboratory
Charleston, South Carolina
History of the U. S. Vegetable Laboratory, Charleston,
The U. S. Vegetable Laboratory (formerly the Southeastern Regional Vegetable
Breeding Laboratory and the U. S. Vegetable Breeding Laboratory) was established
in 1936 under Title I, Section 4, of the Bankhead-Jones Act, approved
by Congress on June 29, 1935. On March 1, 1936, a meeting of representatives
from the USDA’s Bureau of Plant Industry and the Southeastern State
Agricultural Experiment Stations was held in Charleston, South Carolina,
to organize and plan a program of work for the new regional laboratory.
The mission of the Laboratory since its beginning has been to obtain,
through fundamental research, basic information requisite to efficient
and orderly breeding of improved vegetable crops for the southern region,
and to produce new and improved vegetable cultivars and breeding stocks.
Scientists at the laboratory endeavor to coordinate this research as far
as possible with the work of the State Agricultural Experiment Stations,
and to aid in dissemination of research results for the greatest benefit
to agriculture in the southern region.
Scientists at the U. S. Vegetable Laboratory have enjoyed a close working
relationship with the staff of the Clemson University Coastal Research
and Education Center (formerly the Truck Crops Experiment Station and
the Clemson University Coastal Experiment Station) since the mid-1930's.
The U. S. Vegetable Laboratory was located next door to the Clemson University
Coastal Research and Education Center until March 2003, when both groups
moved into a new, $20,000,000.00, state-of-the-art office and laboratory
facility designed, built, owned, and operated by the U. S. Department
of Agriculture. Although the nature of the research conducted by the two
groups is similar, they have quite different responsibilities in that
the USDA Laboratory is regional in scope and must concentrate on research
with regional application.
The Laboratory is located in an area of long growing seasons, mild winters,
and high humidity where plant disease epidemics, nematode infestations,
and insect infestations are common. Most of the problem organisms found
throughout the Southeast are present at this site; therefore much emphasis
has been placed on host resistance in vegetable crops and on improved
methods of plant pest control. Large numbers of field and greenhouse evaluation
tests are conducted each year on plant introductions to determine reactions
to pathogens, nematodes, and insects. New methods of control are also
evaluated under natural conditions at the Charleston Laboratory.
Several prominent cultivars that have gained wide recognition have been
developed at the U. S. Vegetable Laboratory. Notable among them are ‘Wade’,
‘Contender’, ‘Bonus’, ‘Extender’,
‘Provider’, and ‘Goldcoast’ snap bean; ‘Homestead’
and ‘Southland’ tomato; ‘Charleston Gray’, ‘Congo’,
‘Garrisonian’, ‘Graybelle’, ‘Fairfax’,
and ‘Summerfield’ watermelon; ‘Gulfstream’, ‘Planters
Jumbo’, and ‘Mainstream’ muskmelon; ‘Wando’
pea; and ‘Charleston Greenpack’ southernpea. In addition to
these named cultivars, many useful inbred lines and breeding stocks have
been released and distributed throughout the United States and abroad,
often being used as parents in hybrids and cultivars in other areas.
Following the reorganization of the USDA in 1972, two other research
units located at Charleston were merged with the old U. S. Vegetable Breeding
Laboratory and the unit was renamed the U. S. Vegetable Laboratory. The
Vegetable Insects and Nematology Units are now integral parts of the Laboratory.
In 1980, a weed science unit was established to give a new, much-needed
dimension to the vegetable research program. In 2004, a biologically-based
management of vegetable crop diseases unit was also staffed to provide
a new dimension to the Laboratory’s “tool box” for development
of methods for controlling vegetable diseases. Currently, research is
conducted in 7 discipline areas by a team of 11 scientists, made up of
an agronomist, 4 geneticists, 2 entomologists, a nematologist, a fungal
plant pathologist (vacant position), a bacteriologist, and a virologist.
The current research at the U.S. Vegetable Laboratory has several specific
objectives in 2 broad problem areas: cultivar development and pest control.
Crops covered by this program include snap beans, broccoli, cabbage, collards,
cucumber, watermelon, muskmelon, pepper, southernpea, greens and leafy
vegetables, tomato, and sweetpotato. In addition to the conventional methods
of plant breeding and plant pest control, scientists at the Laboratory
are now using new approaches and methodologies (e.g., doubled haploid
methodology, marker-assisted- selection techniques, and nucleotide sequencing)
to advance the technology of vegetable production.
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