Watercolor rendering of the new Southern
Horticultural Laboratory in Poplarville, Mississippi. Click the image
for additional information about it.
Groundbreaking Today for New USDA Horticultural Lab
By Jim Core
October 20, 2003
POPLARVILLE, Miss., Oct. 20,
2003--Ground was broken here today for a new U.S. Department of Agriculture facility where
scientists will develop new plant cultivars and cultural methods for
horticultural production in Gulf Coast states.
The Southern Horticultural Laboratory will be located at the Agricultural
Research Station here. It will cost about $10 million to build, and
construction is scheduled to be complete in December 2004.
ARS is the chief scientific research
agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Research at the laboratory will focus on the genetic improvement and release
of small fruit and ornamental cultivars adapted to the growing conditions of
the Gulf Coast region of the United States. Researchers in the new laboratory
will develop improved cultural and management practices for the production of
small fruits, ornamentals, vegetables, melons and other crops grown in the
"The Poplarville location is recognized worldwide for its small fruit
research activities," said Joseph Jen, USDA undersecretary for
Research, Education and Economics.
"Before blueberry research began in Poplarville in the late 1970s, there
were no commercial blueberry plantings in Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana or
Texas. The establishment of the blueberry industry in the Gulf states is an
example of how ARS research can facilitate the emergence of a new industry,
impact the economy and increase marketing opportunities for southern
ARS Acting Administrator Edward B. Knipling, Blake Thompson from the office
of Senator Thad Cochran (Miss.), Rep. Gene Taylor (Miss.), and other officials
participated in the ceremony.
The 30,000-square-foot building will accommodate 50 scientists and support
personnel from both ARS and Mississippi State University. Researchers will have
backgrounds in such diverse disciplines as horticulture, genetics, plant
physiology, entomology, plant pathology and postharvest physiology.
James M. Spiers, the station's research leader, said that ARS cooperates
with the Mississippi Agricultural and
Forestry Experiment Station and the Mississippi Extension Service to
transfer research results to industry. Findings from blueberry and other fruit
research at the station have already been incorporated into the cultural
practices of Gulf Coast producers. Recent projects have also included work on
grapes, blackberries, strawberries, melons and various vegetables.
A growing ornamental research program is under way at Poplarville, including
the development of improved forms of hibiscus, pest-resistant crape myrtles,
and disease-resistant dogwood and daylilies. ARS researchers and their
cooperators will provide new plant varieties, cultural information and guidance
for the future growth of ornamental industries in the Gulf Coast region.