Five Things You Didn’t Know about the AgResearch & Education Center at Ames Plantation

With more than 18,000 acres stretching across two southwestern Tennessee counties, Ames Plantation is the largest land base available to UT AgResearch. Ames facilitates investigations in the areas of forestry, wildlife management, and crop and animal sciences. Outside of academia, it is probably best known as the long-time home of the National Championship for Field Trialing Bird Dogs. Here’s a look at some interesting facts about Ames.

  1. The forests of Ames Plantation are among the most complex in the world. The large number of tree species and soil types create a kaleidoscopic pattern of forest sites…each with their own management needs. The large array of sites, paired with the sheer scope of Ames, makes this research center ideal for forest evaluations. In the Crop Tree Enhancement and Precision Forestry work, more than 22,000 trees are under study as researchers look to improve hardwood regeneration by finding the right combination of site, species, competition, light regimes, and genetic lineage. The Shackelford Seed Orchards provide an opportunity to evaluate the genetic value of a large number of oak species, both in an orchard and forest setting. “So far as we know, this is the first time trees are being evaluated in orchard settings simultaneously with outplantings, and the results will be unique,” says Allan Houston, professor and director of the Ames Forestry and Wildlife Programs. “The work will begin to form the basis of a precision for hardwood forestry never before explored.”

  2. Ames is home to a nationally recognized hunting club. The Ames Plantation Hunting Club is a limited membership group that enjoys excellent deer, turkey, duck, and quail hunts in the serenity of Ames’ secluded grounds. By incorporating a Quality Deer Management (QDM) study in 2002, Ames has grown its mature buck population, improved its doe to buck ratio, and increased hunter satisfaction. The success of the hunting club-turned-research project was recently featured in the October/November issue of Quality Whitetails, the journal of the Quality Deer Management Association. The publication credits the ongoing educational effort at Ames for improving the deer herd and the hunting experience. Read more.

  3. Ames has been Certified Angus for more than one-hundred years. While Angus is now the most common breed of beef cattle in the United States, when Hobart Ames first started his herd in 1913, this Scottish breed was relatively new to the U.S. Today the Ames’ herd has grown from 19 to 400 head and is recognized as the third oldest registered Aberdeen Angus herd in the nation. Researchers evaluate the Ames herd in an effort to improve livestock health, nutrition, and reproductive efficiency. Students from the UT College of Veterinary Medicine travel to Ames to receive training using the Angus cattle and horses that live on the Plantation.

  4. History lives here. The manor house was built in 1847 as part of the Cedar Grove Plantation. Hobart Ames enlarged the home and added many comforts and luxuries, including the sitting room’s Grande Chasse wallpaper (one of the only other surviving examples of the pattern is in the Louvre). While the manor house may be Ames’ signature structure…in actuality there are more than 200 historic sites on the property, including homes, churches, schools, and cotton gins, the earliest marked burial site in Fayette County, and a Late Woodland to Early Mississippian ceremonial center. Some of the historical findings have been made possible through a partnership with the Rhodes College Institute of Regional Studies. Every summer Rhodes students spend a few weeks at Ames in an archeological excavation of antebellum and prehistoric sites. The digs help archeologists understand the settlement patterns of West Tennessee, while helping students learn how to be responsible with cultural heritage. See video.

  5. The Super Bowl/World Series/Kentucky Derby for bird dogs takes place here. The National Championship for Field Trialing Bird Dogs has been held at Ames every February for a century. Only the best dogs qualify to compete in this test of hunting skills, strength, and endurance. The traditions run deep here…the National Bird Dog Museum is just a few miles down the road. And while visitors to the championship can still watch the action live via horseback as they did in the days of Hobart Ames, thanks to modern technology you can also view event photos, videos, and brace-by-brace recaps online. The National was eloquently described in a 2007 Field and Stream report by Edward Nickens.