A new, state-of-the-art vegetable research facility dedicated in Charleston, S.C., Aug. 20 will give scientists with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Clemson University the tools to continue bringing new and improved varieties to breeders and consumers.
The new complex provides research and office space for 20 scientists — 13 from the Agricultural Research Service's U.S. Vegetable Laboratory located in Charleston, and seven from the university. ARS is USDA's chief in-house scientific research agency.
"Combining the regional USDA and Clemson research staffs into one facility will optimize the use of equipment and other resources, and will stimulate cooperative interaction between the department and the university," said Rodney J. Brown, USDA deputy under secretary for research, education and economics, during a dedication ceremony with state and local officials.
"The Clemson Center and the U.S. Vegetable Laboratory are already internationally recognized for their distinguished research programs on important vegetable crops. The new facility will further expand scientists' capabilities to perform excellent studies that will have a significant impact on agriculture worldwide."
U.S. Vegetable Laboratory researchers include plant geneticists, physiologists, pathologists, entomologists, nematologists and weed scientists. This laboratory has developed and released more than 160 improved vegetable varieties and breeding lines. The Clemson Center has developed and released more than 40.
Many of these improved vegetables have gained wide recognition and acceptance. Notables include Charleston Gray and Congo watermelons, Planter's Jumbo cantaloupe, Goldcoast snap bean, Homestead tomato, Wando pea, Charleston Hot pepper, Charleston Greenpack southernpea, Polaris cucumber, Charleston Belle bell pepper and Ranger squash.
Laboratory scientists have released many disease- and pest-resistant breeding stocks used worldwide to develop hybrid vegetables. In addition, they also study the biology and ecology of vegetable diseases and pests in order to develop new, environmentally compatible control methods that rely on biocontrol, host-plant resistance and other integrated pest management practices.
The new facility replaces many of the old buildings housing the U.S. Vegetable Laboratory and Clemson University's Coastal Research and Education Center. Most were built during the 1930s and did not allow for expansion to meet future program requirements. The new facility consolidates laboratory and office operations into one location, on the north side of U.S. Highway 17 in Charleston.
Containing all the offices, laboratories and other physical plant requirements to support the two research staffs and allow for some expansion, the complex represents the first phase of a new research facility. This phase, which includes the 54,000-square-foot laboratory, cost $20.5 million. The next phase, which is being designed, will add 55,800 square feet of headhouse and greenhouse area.
The U.S. Vegetable Laboratory solves vegetable production and protection problems common to the Southeast. Most of these problems are also of national importance. Studies focus on broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collard, cucumber, snap bean, squash, tomato, melon, pepper (hot and bell), southernpea, sweetpotato and watermelon.
This laboratory is one of 17 research facilities in ARS' South Atlantic Area, which includes Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.