WVSU Receives Grant Funds for New Agriculture Research and Development Projects

Contact: Kimberly Osborne
(304) 766-3363
Oct. 23, 2014
WVSU Receives Grant Funds for New Agriculture Research and Development Projects

INSTITUTE, W.Va. –West Virginia State University (WVSU) has received $40,000 in grant funding for agricultural research projects relating to alternative growing methods for farmers and diversifying the crops produced in West Virginia, including the reintroduction of pecans as a viable crop. Each of the three grant awards are funded through the West Virginia Department of Agriculture’s (WVDA) Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.

Once popular in the state, commercial pecan production in West Virginia stalled in the 1940s.  However, the state’s potential for commercial pecan production remains high. One of the WVDA grants will fund research seeking to reintroduce the nut as a viable crop for small West Virginia farmers.

“This project has the opportunity to develop an untapped market with a crop that hasn't been produced on a commercial scale since World War II,” said WVSU Extension Agent Brad Cochran. “The pecan has an opportunity to be a very productive and valuable crop in the state, as well as one with a good bit of historical preservation and novelty as well.”

The project will educate landowners on the necessary steps to begin production, how to care for and maintain pecan trees, and the development of groves.

A second grant-funded project will investigate crops, production and economic returns on vegetables grown in high tunnel structures to develop recommendations for their use in West Virginia.

“The number of high tunnels in the state has skyrocketed since 2010,” said Dr. Barbara Liedl, associate professor of plant breeding and genetics at WVSU. The project will help to develop a year-round planting schedule for farmers new to the technology, as well as enterprise budgets for growing crops in high tunnels.

High tunnels are greenhouse-like structures that allow for season extension beyond the typical spring and summer months. Liedl will collaborate with local farmers and West Virginia University Extension Service on the project.

A third grant is a collaboration between WVSU Extension Service and the Kanawha Institute for Social Research and Action Inc. to assess the productivity and profitability of two alternative growing methods for specialty crops: tower garden structures for vertical growing and a nutrient film technique. The latter is a water-based, soil-free technique using gutter-like systems for water circulation.

WVDA's Specialty Crop Block Grant Program encourages cooperative efforts to integrate technology at the farm level, improve marketing and promotion of locally grown specialty crops, and increase production efficiency through research projects.
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West Virginia State University is a public, land grant, historically black university, which has evolved into a fully accessible, racially integrated, and multi-generational institution, located in Institute, W.Va. As a “living laboratory of human relations,” the university is a community of students, staff, and faculty committed to academic growth, service, and preservation of the racial and cultural diversity of the institution. Its mission is to meet the higher education and economic development needs of the state and region through innovative teaching and applied research.
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