The Southwest Virginia Agricultural Research and Extension Center has recently become one of the key sites for hair sheep research at Virginia Tech. Registered and crossbred commercial ewes are entered into the National Sheep Improvement Program database for genetic evaluation and performance. Parasite resistance, growth performance, and carcass merit are also evaluated with trials being conducted. Future plans to incorporate a pasture based hair sheep ram testing facility are currently underway.
The Southwest Virginia AREC maintains a strong program in management systems for beef cattle, including a heifer development program where animals meet the standards set forth by the Virginia Premium Assured Heifers program and stocker cattle are backgrounded to meet Virginia Quality Assured Program standards. All cattle are maintained on endophyte-infected or endophyte-tolerant fescue pastures and evaluated for growth and/or breeding performance.
Burley tobacco and tobacco management practices such as topping height, sucker control, insect management and disease control are researched. Evaluations of the burley regional preliminary, quality, and official variety trials are also conducted in cooperation with Kentucky, North Carolina, and Tennessee, as well as tobacco specific nitrosamine research in cooperation with Philip Morris.
The Southwest Virginia AREC also includes demonstration planting of blueberries, a research/demonstration planting of various small fruits and vegetables, and a research planting of various landscaping plants being evaluated as part of the Virginia Plant Introduction Program. Research is also conducted in cooperation with the Virginia Department of Forestry on Christmas trees, pine species, and hardwood plantings.
Various other pasture research and demonstration plots for fertilization and weed control are also conducted, and the Southwest Virginia AREC maintains a warm-season grass project for biofuels research. The AREC conducts research on wetlands enhancement for science education.
The AREC conducts field days and tours for groups of producers and the general public of all ages, to introduce them to our programs, and the world of agriculture in Southwest Virginia.