University of Kentucky researchers have a long, storied history of working with farmers and stakeholders to make the state’s agricultural community world leaders in innovation and adaption. Last week, they joined together to break ground on the Grain and Forage Center of Excellence, a facility that will allow them to continue this rich tradition.
To accommodate the center, UK’s Research and Education Center in Princeton is undergoing a renovation and expansion. The College of Agriculture, Food and Environment facility will serve as the center’s nucleus with faculty and staff based at Princeton and Lexington. KyCorn purchased adjoining land to the center, where staff will conduct large-scale field trials.
“I am glad Corn Growers were able to help move the project forward,” said KyCorn Promotion Council Vice Chairman Russel Schwenke, who attended the groundbreaking event. “I wasn’t sure it would progress this quickly, but I feel really good about how it has come together. The center will have a huge impact on corn production research and education.”
The center is a testament to the strong working relationship between UK specialists and Western Kentucky farmers with the idea coming from Logan County farmer Don Halcomb and Lloyd Murdock, UK extension soils professor emeritus.
“We needed the ability to attract outstanding extension researchers to work in our unique soils and climate, and the center of excellence will help us do that,” Halcomb said.
The idea gained support and momentum from the state’s farmers and commodity groups. It became a reality when the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board awarded the university $15 million in July 2016.
As a result of the center, a team of UK researchers have started new projects to better understand the connections between intensive agriculture production and water quality. Some of the projects underway include mixed forages for grazing cattle and their impact on other species and better use of chicken litter as a soil amendment on Kentucky fields. They will partner with local producers as these projects progress.
“We are focusing on issues that are important to Kentucky farmers and citizens,” said Chad Lee, the center’s director. “We are approaching this with the same multidisciplinary effort that we did with no-till adaptation and intensive management of wheat, which were state-level problems UK researchers tackled that had worldwide implications.”
The center is expected to be complete in summer 2019.