Research Stations - Sandhills Research Station
Research programs at the Sandhills Research Station include plant breeding for new variety development and improvement, cultural management practices of crops, adaptability of crops to the local environment and soils as well as the management of weeds, diseases, insects and other agricultural deterrents. Field experiments and research help growers improve quality and increase the yield of crops suitable for production in the Sandhills region.
Small Fruits and Vegetables
More than 20 varieties of peaches have been developed at the station. In addition to developing new varieties, researchers also study ways to control diseases, weeds and insects. Cultural management practices like pruning, thinning, irrigation and fertility are also evaluated. There is currently a long term Biochar study in Peaches looking at the potential to increase water and nutrient holding capacity of the sandy soils and hopefully limit harmful nematode populations that contribute to Peach Tree Short-Life. Blackberries and raspberries are evaluated at SRS for their productivity and adaptation to the local area. Blackberry plots are maintained for evaluating new classes of pesticides through the IR-4 specialty crops program and monitoring Spotted-wing drysophila. Strawberries are sometimes grown at SRS, with primary research focus being variety evaluation and fertility management. Blueberry cultivars are developed with traits that consumers and growers want. Good tasting, high yielding varieties are developed through breeding research at SRS. The station also hosts projects involving other fruit and vegetable crops such as pecans, Muscadine grapes, peppers, and carrots.
Soybean, peanut, cotton and small grain studies have increased at SRS in the past few years. Uniform, deep sandy soils of the Sandhills Research Station are ideal for evaluating drought resistance and nutrient management in many crops. Soybean research focuses on the development of more drought tolerant, higher yielding, widely adapted varieties for Southeast producers. Scientists are optimistic that new varieties of soybeans will soon be released which will increase soybean yields by virtue of improved drought tolerance. Cotton is grown at the station to screen breeding lines for hardiness and drought tolerance. Work is also underway to look at rolled cover crops as a way of minimizing insect pressure in several row crop applications. Hemp is an emerging crop being studied at Sandhills. This crop has potential to replace some of the lost tobacco acreage in this area of the state. Several small grain trails are conducted annually in wheat, barley, and sorghum with the main focus being insect and nutrient management.
Magnolia and Redbud (Cercis) are two species of particular interest in the relatively new ornamental research program at SRS. Improved and novel varieties of these landscape plants as well as weeping and red leaf form of the redbud tree are being developed at SRS. Small, compact Magnolia of various colors are also being developed.
Turfgrass research plots are maintained at SRS to mimic golf courses, athletic fields and home lawns. Researchers study the environmental impacts of turf; control of pests such as insects, weeds and diseases, as well as cultural evaluations like traffic tolerance and mowing height effect on turf quality. Furthermore, the impact of heat and drought stress on weed competition and turf vigor is evaluated. NCSU’s Turfgrass Breeding Program Variety trials are used to determine adaptability of different cultivars to our local climate and soils.