South Charleston: Research site gets new facility

Photo courtesy of Ken Chamberlain/OSU Communications & Technology

The Western Agricultural Research Station in South Charleston recently dedicated a new $850,000 building. The station has been in operation since the 1950s, conducting crop and swine production research.

Located three-and-a-half miles northwest of South Charleston on Route 41, the Western Agricultural Research Station conducts experiments that impact agriculture here and abroad. Until early July, the work was done from humble quarters.

The station’s six full-time staff members and other personnel worked out of a retrofitted dairy barn. The milking parlor was their office. Pigs once were farrowed on the other side of the break room wall. The shower and rest room facilities left much to be desired. As for the corn crib-turned-workshop, the door isn’t tall or wide enough to accommodate modern farm equipment.

 
Photo courtesy of Ken Chamberlain/OSU Communications & Technology

Dr. Bobby Moser (left), dean of the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University, talks about research possibilities with Clarence Fenk, Western Agricultural Research Station manager, State Rep. Chris Widener, and Madison County Commissioner Bob Hackett.

While the station’s outdoor working conditions remain the same—428 acres, 350 of which are tillable, all presided over by Mother Nature—the indoor digs changed dramatically last month with the dedication of a new $850,000 building.

“It’s one heck of an update from what we used to have,” said Joe Davlin, research assistant.

The facility is basic in design but high on functionality. It includes offices, machinery storage areas, and a maintenance and repair shop with more than enough space for combines and the like. For the first time, the station has a temperature controlled seed storage area and a conference room that seats 50 people.

“It has improved what we are able to do,” said the station’s manager, Clarence Renk.

What Goes on at Western

The Western Agricultural Research Station is operated by the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. OARDC is the research arm of Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Western is one of nine outlying research stations spread across the state. Each station’s manager and staff helps scientists from the Columbus and Wooster campuses conduct field experiments. Some research also is done for commercial entities, such as Pioneer, Dupont, Dow and Seed Consultants.

“A lot of the work that goes on at Western goes on at other locations in the state. What Western provides is that it’s representative of soil conditions and climate for western Ohio,” said Ken Scaife, assistant to the director for field operations at OARDC.

 
Messenger photo by Kristy Zurbrick

Bruce Eisley (left), a research associate in the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center’s entomology department, rates corn plants for root worm damage and Karen Smith, a Clark State agribusiness student, writes down the findings. Eisley conducts his research at the Western Agriculture Research Station in South Charleston. The station recently dedicated new facilities.

“Over the last 40 years, there have been great improvements made in the genetics of corn, soybeans and wheat. Those have to be tested in different environments across the state, and Western has been part of that.”

Western’s crop research also includes oats, alfalfa, pumpkins, melons, other vegetables and grasses. Additionally, the facility conducts re-search on swine production, primarily genetic improvements.

“We’ve had over 150 projects out here just this year,” said Davlin.

Plant varieties, fertility, crop rotations, tillage methods, soil compaction, weed control, disease control, herbicides and insecticides are all topics on the table—or in the field, as it were—at Western.

Drawing Attention

With the new building, Western can do more outreach programs with growers and commodity groups.

“There are also rental possibilities with our conference room, which will bring a little more notoriety of where we are,” Davlin said.

While some area residents might not know the research station exists—or if they do, they might not know what goes on there—farmers and agribusiness representatives from as far away as China and Japan seek out the place.

“In the last couple of months, we’ve had people in from China who want to buy breeding stock from the U.S. to incorporate new blood into their stock,” Davlin said. “And we’ve had people from Japan looking at our herbicide plots.”

No matter where farmers are from, Davlin said, the attraction is the unbiased research the station conducts.

The Western Agricultural Research Station is located at 7721 South Charleston Pike, between Springfield and South Charleston, just south of I-70.

 
Messenger photo by Kristy Zurbrick

The conference room in the new building allows for meetings of up to 50 people.

An advisory committee of local farmers, agriculture industry suppliers, and staff from OARDC, OSU and OSU Extension provide the station with feedback on programs. Richard Flax, a South Charleston area grain and hog farmer, is on the committee.

Pumpkin Field Day

The research station will host a Pumpkin Field Day from 6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 21. The program will include a wagon tour of research plots. The station is growing 20 hybrids of pumpkins from palm-sized varieties to 40-pounders. Researchers are analyzing the plants for yield, size, weight and disease resistance. Some of the hybrids have not yet been released to the public.

Specific studies include squash vine borer control in a zucchini trial, a white speck disease evaluation trial, and a powdery mildew fungicide trial. An entomologist, horticulturalist, plant pathologists and other specialists from The Ohio State University will be part of the field day.

Admission is $5 per person at the door. Those seeking PAT or CCA credit will pay $10. For details, call Jim Jasinski, OSU Extension, IPM, at 937-484-1526 or the station at 937-462-8016.

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