Agriculture is a dominant part of Arkansas’ economy. Arkansas State, for example, produces about half of the total rice produced in the nation. To ensure that the state continues to earn from agriculture and stay in tune with improved agricultural techniques, different organizations in the state have initiated a number of agricultural projects.
It is not surprising that many of the ongoing agricultural programs in the state are spearheaded by some of the prominent agricultural institutions in the state. Below are some of the projects that are currently ongoing to enhance the production of different crops in the state.
The Learning Farm
The main purpose of establishing the Learning Farm in 2012 was to introduce fruit growers in the state to the latest technologies that would guarantee profitable fruit production. The learning farm which is located at Nashville’s Daddy Bob’s Fruit Farm (a commercial farm) came into existence out of necessity.
It all began when Sherry Beaty-Sullivan, a Howard County agent who had just purchased a farm met with an Extension Plant Pathologist, Dr Terry Kirkpatrick for help on the use of technology to maximize yields and profit.
Daddy Bob’s was recently purchased by Nikki Ray and her father Paul. The commercial farm originally established about 25 years ago consists of 2 acres of blackberries, 4 acres of muscadines, 12 acres of peaches, and 12 acres of blueberries. The Rays are working with a team of scientists to identify future research needs for the commercial production of fruits in Arkansas.
Arkansas agriculture has moved from the use of crude tools to exploiting sophisticated technologies to enhance crop and fruit production. in line with this objective, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory scientists at the Department of Energy is partnering with Glennoe Farms and the University of Arkansas to integrate biogeochemistry, molecular biology, machine learning, and environmental sensing technologies to create sustainable farming practices and revolutionize agriculture in ways that will be both beneficial to the farms and the environment.
The success of the project will lower the need for chemical fertilizers on farms as well as enhance the uptake of carbon by the soil. This will improve the long-term land viability as well as increase yield. The pilot scale in 2017 produced an extensive dataset that gives valuable insights into future land management strategies.
Delta Farms Tour
The amount of agricultural yield is largely dependent on the quality of the soil. A soil of low quality will only yield poor products. This vital role of the soil in determining the quality of agricultural products has prompted a tour of Arkansas Delta Farms by a Soil Health Research Group. Also, part of the tour were representatives from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service, Arkansas State University, Natural Resources Conservation Service, UofA Extension, and UofA Fayetteville.
A large number of farms were visited including Carwell Farms in Cherry Valley, Ellis Bell in Forrest City, Adam Chappell in Cotton Plant, Mikey Taylor in Helena, Steve Stevens in Dumas, and Robby Beavis in Lonoke.