5 Things You Should Know about the West Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center

For more than one hundred, scientists at the West Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center have been solving problems for the region’s farmers and families. With an emphasis on both row crops and ornamental plantings, this Center serves rural and urban clientele and is an important part of the West Tennessee community. Keep reading for five fast facts about this research center.

1) It was the first branch station. Early on, university scientists recognized that Tennessee’s varied soil and climate conditions called for research outside the Knoxville area. In 1907, the West Tennessee Experiment Station was established. According to reports, the “worn-out” fields on the property provided an excellent opportunity for researching soil improvement methods. Another area of focus during the Center’s first years—finding alternatives to cotton before the expected arrival of the boll weevil.

2) It’s home to the UT Gardens, Jackson. While research programs at WTREC have historically focused on agronomic crops, since the 1980s, ornamental horticulture research has greatly increased. The trial gardens are now part of the UT Gardens system, and one of the most gorgeous science labs you’ll ever walk through! In addition to evaluating hundreds of plants each year, Gardens staff host multiple seminars, plant sales, and the annual Summer Celebration Lawn and Garden Show. These events draw thousands of visitors, many from non-ag backgrounds.

3) It’s not just AgResearch. More than sixty full-time employees work at this Center, but not all for AgResearch. The UT Extension Western Region headquarters is housed here, as is the USDA-ARS Crop Genetics Research Unit, a regional office of the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, and regional offices for the UT Institute for Public Service. Additionally, college students, post docs, and visiting scientists live and work here throughout the year.

5)There’s lots of tree-search. WTREC has more than 200 acres of forests composed of a variety of pine and hardwood species. The Center is a certified American Tree Farm recognized for sustainable forest management practices and commitment to doing what’s best for the land. With close to one hundred specimens of ornamental trees, the Center is also recognized as a Level 3 Arboretum by the Tennessee Urban Forestry Council. Local school children conduct an annual leaf collection project here as they learn to properly identify trees found in Tennessee.

5) Claims the state’s oldest no-till research plot. While no-till farming is more readily associated with the AgResearch and Education Center at Milan (located 27 miles to the north), WTREC also played a pivotal role in this movement. It is home to the longest continuously no-tilled cotton research plot in the state. This project was started in 1981 by the late Dr. Don Tyler.

What’s next for WTREC? A major renovation of the interior of the main office building will begin this summer. That’s in addition to the construction of new offices, laboratories, and greenhouse space already underway. These projects will increase research capacity for the Center, adding valuable space that enhances investigations. Meeting rooms will be unavailable for the duration of the indoor renovations.