Inside the ARECs: Eastern Virginia AREC

The Agricultural Research and Extension Centers are a network of 11 research centers located throughout the state that emphasize the close working relationship between the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station and Virginia Cooperative Extension. “Inside the ARECs” highlights the work and accomplishments of these 11 centers and will appear in every Insights.

The Eastern Virginia AREC is located in the primarily grain-growing region of the state in the coastal plain near Warsaw. The research programs conducted at the center contribute to the development of new wheat, barley, and soybean varieties by providing major field support for Virginia Tech crop breeding programs. Other research projects at this center include disease, pest, and fertility management of these crops.

Eastern Virginia AREC field day tour

Eastern Virginia AREC field day tour.

Field days and tours at the Eastern Virginia AREC are a significant component of the center’s outreach efforts and are held each year to showcase the center’s research initiatives, to introduce new varieties that are nearing release, and to educate visitors about the production and management of wheat, barley, and soybeans in eastern Virginia. A field day focusing on the small grains program is scheduled for May 15. 

“The small-grain field day provides an opportunity for agricultural producers, agribusiness, and seed industry personnel to view new grain lines under development for future release and hear updates on small grain and pest management. It’s also an opportunity for networking,” said Bob Pittman, superintendent of the Eastern Virginia AREC.

Extension Grains Specialist and Associate Professor of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences Wade Thomason agrees.

“Our field days give farmers and industry people the opportunity to see new varieties. Farmers get to see what’s coming and the marketing reps get to see what they want to invest in. We also try to take them through and talk about the latest in pest and disease management, and soil management techniques like measuring nitrogen use efficiency,” said Thomason.

Over the past six years, harvested winter barley acreage in the region varied from 145,000 to 197,000 acres. Production during this period ranged from 1.3 to 2.6 million bushels and varied in value from $3.1 to $7.5 million.

“Virginia Tech has the largest winter barley breeding program in the eastern U.S. and is the primary source of new cultivars in this region,” said W.G. Wyser Professor of Crop Genetics and Breeding, Carl Griffey, who is also an Extension specialist.

In addition to economic returns to clientele generated from the production and utilization of these varieties, royalties ranging from $340,000 to $756,000 from the annual seed sales are returned to the university and Griffey’s program to support research conducted by students, research associates, and Extension specialists both on and off campus.

Wheat varieties released from this program are widely planted, not only in Virginia, but in other mid-Atlantic states and into the Midwest and Canada. During the past 25 years, eight hulled and four hulless barley varieties and 58 wheat varieties including 48 soft red winter, two soft white winter, six hard red winter, and two winter durum wheat varieties have been developed and released through Griffey’s research program.

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