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About the Center

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The Virginia Tech Tidewater Agricultural Research and Extension Center (Tidewater AREC) will pursue a vision of excellence through:

  • conducting and publishing unbiased research that addresses specific needs in production of economically important food and fiber crops with emphasis on profitability, production efficiency, product quality and safety, and soil, water and air quality protection;
  • conducting and publishing unbiased research that addresses specific needs in commercial swine production with emphasis on profitability, production efficiency, animal welfare, environmental protection and pork quality;
  • recruitment, training and graduation of Ph.D. and M.S. graduate students in these discipline areas so that these individuals are fully prepared to help meet a critical need for agricultural scientists in the future;
  • integration of research-based knowledge into Extension programs, publications, electronic media, diagnostic tools, recommendations and guides that effect change and generate positive impact in production of food and fiber crops and commercial swine production;
  • serving as a base for technical specialists and advisors that support Extension Agents, industry consultants, producers, commodity groups and agricultural organizations and agencies;
  • generation of extramural funding to support these mission components through writing and achieving grants that address specific as well as integrated, interdisciplinary issues;
  • and, provision of land, facilities, and equipment that allows faculty and staff to pursue and achieve these mission components while fostering an environment that promotes effective collaboration of faculty, staff and graduate students stationed at Tidewater AREC, at other ARECs, on campus and at other institutions.

The Virginia Tech Tidewater Agricultural Research and Extension Center will be recognized for excellence in discovery, development, evaluation and extension of technical information critical to profitability and sustainability of field crop agriculture and commercial swine production in the Commonwealth of Virginia and beyond.

The Tidewater Agricultural Research and Extension Center started with one person, 20 acres of rented land, a mule, and a tiny white frame two-room building. It has grown to 24 full time employees, 412 acres of land, and 33 buildings and other structures. This off-campus field station of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (VPI & SU) began operation on April 6, 1914 near the town of Holland in southeast Virginia as The Nansemond County Experiment Station. The name was later changed to Holland Experiment Station and then Tidewater Field Station. Numerous name modifications have occurred over the years with Tidewater remaining constant as this is the principle area of Virginia served by the center. The present name, Tidewater Agricultural Research and Extension Center, represents its dual research and extension role. As the result of a state appropriation of approximately $3,500, Mr. E. Taylor Batten, an agronomy graduate of Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College and Polytechnic Institute (currently VPI & SU), was hired as the first superintendent. During the early years of the center, Mr. Batten worked single-handedly or sometimes hired local labor to assist in conducting field experiments on peanut, corn, soybean, and cotton. One of the important buildings at the center that houses graduate student and technician offices, a peanut quality laboratory and scientific literature is affectionately named “Batten Hall” by the faculty and staff at the center.

Since these early days the people, equipment, methods and programs at the Tidewater Agricultural Research and Extension Center have changed dramatically. But the underlying mission established by Mr. Batten’s vision remains the same: to enhance efficiency and profit potential in the production of food and fiber in the Commonwealth, and to do so in a manner that protects the environment and the public good. Applied science based research in production of cotton, corn, peanuts, soybeans, small grains, swine and other crops is conducted under the leadership of six agricultural scientists and a host of skilled technicians and staff. In addition faculty based at the center carry Extension specialist appointments and support Extension agents, agricultural producers and agribusinesses through educational programs, production recommendations and critical information for decision making.

External Awards Summary

Faculty at the Tidewater AREC are very active in pursuing external funding. Much of this funding comes from competitive grants from commodity boards and federal sources. Tidewater AREC faculty also have a history of strong funding from the agricultural chemical, fertilizer, and seed industries. Listed below are the major commodity groups and the number of grants each has awarded Tidewater AREC faculty over the past 10 years.

  • Cotton Incorporated - 28 grants
  • National Pork Board - 2 grants
  • Virginia Ag. Council - 24 grants
  • Virginia Cotton Board - 23 grants
  • Virginia Peanut Board - 22 grants
  • Virginia Peanut Growers - 22 grants
  • Virginia Pork Board - 10 grants
  • Virginia Soybean Board - 31 grants
  • Virginia-Carolina Peanut Growers Assoc. – 8 grants

Key Collaborations and Interdisciplinary Efforts

  • William Frame, David Holshouser and Maria Balota are currently working on grant funded by the Virginia Ag. Council which focuses on improving water use efficiency in Virginia’s Agroecosystems.
  • Hillary Mehl and David Holshouser have received funding from the Virginia Soybean Board to validate a spray advisory which will help soybean growers time fungicide applications for more efficaint control of foliar soybean diseases.

The seven faculty members at Tidewater AREC have combined responsibilities for research and Extension. These joint appointments are complementary. Extension education interaction with producers, Extension Agents, consultants, and agribusiness people enhances the scientists’ understanding of issues and problems that may be addressed through applied research projects, and new information generated through research programs can be extended to these same people efficiently through Extension programs. The Tidewater AREC faculty members maintain a close working relationship with Virginia Cooperative Extension Agents and provide technical support to their programs. A variety of educational programs and resources are employed to achieve the Tidewater AREC Extension education mission.  

Example Extension programs include:

  • Educational crop tours and field days for producers, Extension Agents, crop consultants and agribusiness representatives
  • Internet based crop advisories such as the Peanut/Cotton InfoNet and the Virginia Ag Pest and Crop Advisory
  • In-service education and update programs for agricultural Extension Agents
  • On-farm crop and livestock demonstration projects and research trials
  • Producer seminars and educational meetings
  • Agricultural education programs and field days for adults and youth from the non-farm public
  • Swine producer certification programs in quality assurance and waste management
  • Publication and distribution of crop production guides for cotton and peanuts
  • Preparation of electronic and hard copy Extension education publications on specific topics in field crop production and swine management
  • Electronic and hard copy publication of variety trial results for soybeans and peanuts
  • Major contributions to field crop recommendations in Virginia Tech’s pest management guides
  • Service as educational and technical advisors to selected Virginia commodity associations and boards
  • Plant disease and insect diagnostic services are available for clientele

Special Services

The plant pathology program at Tidewater AREC operates a plant disease clinic that provides diagnosis of plant problems and recommendations for 100+ plant samples each year. The plant pathology program also operates the Peanut Disease Hotline which is a phone recording of the last effective spray dates for peanut leaf spot and Sclerotinia blight. This program also maintains the Peanut/Cotton Infonet that provides provides crop management information, updated daily during the growing season, to provide county agents and growers with the latest information at the beginning of each work day. 

The entomology program operates the Virginia Ag Pest and Crop Advisory which was created to improve dissemination of IPM information. The advisory is a blog that compiles pest and crop updates from multiple authors and contributors, including IPM specialists. Titles and brief summaries of the blogs are automatically emailed once a week to the recipient list via Mail Chimp. The advantage of this system to the recipient is that it is a single-source provider of updated pest information - everything is in one location and users become accustomed to having it delivered at the same time each week.

Stakeholder Interactions

Field day are one of the primary mechanisms of engaging stakeholders. The Tidewater AREC has an early season field day in early June and a pre-harvest plot tour in September to showcase research that is being conducted at the station. Faculty are also present at many of the commodity board meetings and often present research findings at these functions. At the latest Cotton Incorporated meeting, extension faculty presented proposals to growers and representatives of Cotton Incorporated and received feedback on those proposals.

Welcome to the Tidewater Agricultural Research and Extension Center, located in Suffolk, Va.

The Tidewater Agricultural Research and Extension Center is located in the coastal plains region of southeast Virginia in Suffolk.  The center’s resources include 412 acres of agricultural land and associated buildings, equipment and laboratories.    

Applied research and Extension education programming at the Tidewater AREC is focused on economically important field crops including cotton, soybean, peanut, corn, small grains, sorghum, cover crops, and alternative crops, and on commercial swine production. Within program areas, emphasis is directed toward sustainable production that considers profitability for producers and processors along with quality of food and fiber products, and soil, water and air protection.  This mission is carried out by seven resident faculty members supported by 25 state and grant funded technicians. Seasonal part-time workers, graduate students and student interns funded primarily through research grants also support programs at the Tidewater AREC.   

Plant pathology, entomology, soybean agronomy, cotton and cropping systems, peanut variety and quality evaluation (PVQE), and swine physiology are our signature programs directed at real-world agricultural research. For example, through collaboration with NC State, Clemson, and the University of Florida, the multi-state PVQE program has evaluated and participated to the release of 25 Virginia-type peanut cultivars over 40 years and currently is geared towards improved oil chemistry for longer peanut shelf life and consumer satisfaction. In addition, the pathology program evaluates these cultivars for resistance to economically important diseases in Virginia. The Tidewater AREC plant pathology group also issues crop disease and frost advisories throughout the growing season; does extensive work in developing safe, effective approaches to controlling seedling and foliar diseases in cotton, corn, wheat, soybeans, and sorghum; and provides essential plant disease diagnostic service to growers, Extension agents, and crop consultants throughout the region and state. An ongoing monitoring program is currently in place for early detection of soybean rust, a new crop disease working its way into Virginia.

The entomology team at the Tidewater AREC uses an IPM (integrated pest management) approach in developing systems to manage current and emerging insect pests of field crops. Research programs determine economic treatment thresholds, new and safer insecticide treatments, and cultural practices to control such pests as thrips and stink bugs in cotton and soybean, southern corn rootworm in peanut, and Lepidoptera caterpillar species in cotton, corn and soybean. 

Scientists and technical staff at the Tidewater AREC have extensive programs in crop variety evaluation and development. There are official variety assessment programs for cotton, soybean and sorghum and cooperative programs with campus faculty for assessment of corn, wheat and barley. Data collected in these programs are used extensively by growers, Extension Agents, seed companies, and crop advisors to select crop varieties with the greatest potential for profitable yield, grade and quality. Other work focuses on tillage and crop rotation systems to conserve soil moisture, prevent erosion and reduce weed competition to the crop. A new line of research is focusing on developing drought and cold tolerance traits in peanuts and other important field crops.

The swine physiologist is developing management and nutritional approaches for improving swine fertility in artificial insemination (AI) programs used on commercial hog farms. For example, a recent project demonstrated improved fertility in AI systems when breeding boars are supplemented with a unique source of the mineral selenium. The work also demonstrated improved selenium retention and reduced excretion by the animal, factors with potential benefits in nutritional value of pork and in environmental protection. Other work focuses on health and management of weanling pigs and determining physiological and welfare characteristics of housing systems for breeder swine, a current topic of debate and change in commercial pork production.

Strategic Plan

Tidewater AREC Strategic Plan.pdf An overview of TAREC's new strategic plan
We are committed to developing and delivering technology and educational programs that support profitable agriculture and improve the quality of life in Virginia, while preserving the natural resources.