Vaughn Skinner, Resident Director
Arkansas Agricultural Research & Extension Center
1366 Altheimer Drive
Fayetteville, AR 72704
The Arkansas Agricultural Research & Extension Center (AAREC) is the main agricultural research complex in Arkansas and the premier research location in the region. AAREC is also the headquarters site of the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station (AES). The Center is used by all AES research disciplines and includes research in the areas of animal and poultry sciences; food science; horticulture; insect pests and diseases; crop, soil, and water resources; biological and agricultural engineering; and agriscience and technology.
Known as the Main Agricultural Experiment Station until 1996, the history of the Arkansas Agricultural Research & Extension Center (AAREC) at its present site along Highway 112 in Fayetteville dates to original land purchases in 1919. However, its antecedent in Washington County goes back to 1888 when the first Agricultural Experiment Station Director, Albert Menke, acquired “three acres in the orchard, three acres in cultivation, forty acres untilled, a pair of antediluvian mules and a tumbledown shed” on which to conduct the Station’s “practical experiments”. A small research farm was located in what is now the center of the University of Arkansas campus, but by the turn of the century, most of the agricultural research in the Fayetteville area was conducted on rented farmland.
At the close of WWI, interested business and newspaper leaders throughout the state demanded greater public investment in agricultural research. This effort led to the state-sponsored purchase of four tracts of land at the current site in April and May 1919 totaling 423 acres. The Center grew through other major land purchases or gifts in 1924, 1945, and 1950, and finally reached its present size of 725 acres through a 24-acre gift by the late J.E. “Ep” and Maurice McClelland in 1992 in honor of his father, C.K. McClelland, the AES agronomist who developed the first soybean specifically adapted to Arkansas. AAREC is the oldest and largest (staffing and facilities) research location in the Agricultural Experiment Station.
Animal Science conducts a comprehensive research program including nutrition/forages, physiology, genetics, health/parasitology, and meat science. The research expertise is in a systems approach from birth of an animal to end product with emphasis on efficiency and health. Facilities include a red meat abattoir, a FDA-licensed feed mill, a digestion and metabolism complex, numerous replicated pastures, confinement pens, an off-site swine nursery, and a cooking and sensory evaluation laboratory.
Crop, Soil, and Environmental Sciences
The CSES Farm is comprised of about 200 acres and divided into 77 fields ranging in size from 0.3 to 5.0 acres. Approximately 25 project leaders and 40 graduate students conduct research on the farm, studying soils and agronomic crops such as corn, soybeans, wheat, oats, cotton, rice, grain sorghum, canola and forage crops. Other research includes weed control and plant physiology for agronomic crops, as well as plant and soil pesticide residues, soil fertility, soil physics, soil chemistry, soil microbiology, soil classification, best methods for land application of animal waste, and site specific application of soil amendments to improve soil uniformity.
Entomology & Plant Pathology
The combined departments of Entomology and Plant Pathology target plant improvement, insect and pathogen control, pollinator ecology, arthropod vectors of animal and human diseases, and the genetics of plant pests such as viruses, bacteria, fungi and insects. Active investigations at AAREC include research in soybean molecular pathology, organic management strategies, nematodes, fire ants, ticks, forestry insects, and pollinators. Resources include the Cralley-Warren Building, 12 allocated research fields, 7 greenhouses, forestry entomology laboratory, maintenance shop, storage buildings, and the Arkansas Plant Health Clinic.
Food Science research benefitting the food industry worldwide began at the Center in 1957. Research, requiring a large investment in laboratories and analytical instrumentation, is conducted in the Food Science Building, the Don Tyson Center for Agricultural Sciences, and the Biomass Building. Research areas include (1) food chemistry and biochemistry (carbohydrate, lipid, and protein chemistry; and fruits and functional foods), (2) food microbiology and safety (foodborne pathogens, public health, and retail food safety), (3) food processing and engineering (food production sustainability, grain processing, and rice processing), (4) nutritional science (energy metabolism, gut microbiome, metabolic health, nutraceuticals, and phytochemicals), and (5) sensory & consumer science (chemosensory perception, food neuropsychophysiology, sensory and consumer testing, and eating behavior).
Horticulture research at AAREC consists of four areas of study: (1) sports and lawn turf management, (2) sustainable and organic fruit and vegetable production, (3) protected fruit and vegetable production, and (4) plant breeding and variety testing. Facilities and resources at the Center include the Horticulture Field Laboratory; an equipment storage facility; breeding/nursery greenhouses; production research greenhouses and high tunnels (for protected organic and sustainable production); golf, sports, and lawn turf research areas; vineyards; and field research areas.
Poultry Science research first began in 1916, three years before the AAREC location was secured. But, it got its greatest boosts in funding and new facilities when the Poultry Experimental Farm was constructed on 23 acres in 1932, and again when the Chicken of Tomorrow contest was hosted at the Center in 1951. Currently, there are two poultry farms at AAREC, the north farm anchored by the Skeeles Poultry Health Laboratory and the Cargill Poultry Health Center, and the west farm that includes the 10,000 sq. ft. pilot processing plant, poultry feed mill, the hatchery, an environmental laboratory, and 12 poultry research houses. Work at the Center includes antibiotic-free/disease research, poultry management, poultry nutrition, poultry breeding, broiler/broiler breeder research, layer research, and research on shell eggs.
Don Tyson Center for Agricultural Sciences
The original headquarters of the Agricultural Experiment Station was on Maple Street where the Rosen Alternative Pest Control Center is located on the campus of the University of Arkansas. Built in 1888, it was eventually razed in 1970. For the next 47 years, the AES was co-located on the University of Arkansas campus with Bumpers College. In 2017, thanks to the generous support of the Tyson family, the AES moved into its new headquarters at the Don Tyson Center for Agricultural Sciences (DTAS).
The DTAS is a 52,000 sq. ft., two-story facility with two wings. The south wing houses the administrative operations for the AES. The larger north wing has space for 20 state-of-the-art laboratories, with accompanying offices and graduate student areas. The building has first-rate meeting facilities to accommodate conferences, seminars, workshops, board meetings, and banquets related to the research and Extension mission of the Division of Agriculture. Foremost is Waldrip Hall, gifted by Mark and Angela Waldrip, which can seat up to 500 people.
Food Science Building
Housing the highest ranked higher education research program in the region, the building traces its origins to construction of the Physiology and Processing Laboratory in 1958 to provide research support for the region’s vegetable canning industry. The 3,000 sq. ft. laboratory would soon be known as A Wing when B Wing was constructed in 1963. By 1968, the newly created Department of Horticultural Food Science was established leading to construction of C Wing to help house teaching responsibilities also. Expansions in 1980 and 1985 increased the total size of the facility to 32,000 sq. ft. befitting the newly renamed Department of Food Science. Construction of D wing in 2003 and E Wing in 2010 helped top the building out at 47,000 sq. ft. consisting of 15 research laboratories, 15 instrumentation rooms, 18 faculty offices, 3 conference rooms, a computer lab, two classrooms, a teaching laboratory, two pilot plants (wet and dry), and a food innovation laboratory.
A major addition to the AAREC was the construction of the crops physiology Altheimer Laboratory and Greenhouses, built in stages starting in the late 1950’s with the building of a small laboratory and greenhouse. From 1960-62, a contribution by the Ben J. Altheimer Foundation allowed the first expansion of the facility. It grew to 11,000 sq. ft. with other gifts from the Foundation and commodity boards by the early 1970’s and then to 19,000 sq. ft. at its dedication in 1980 following an 8,000 sq. ft. expansion begun in 1976. The last expansion was completed in 1993 when 3500 sq. ft. were added for a soils testing laboratory and other improvements along with the construction of a new greenhouse complex.
Pauline Whitaker Animal Science Center
The Pauline Whitaker Animal Science Center, located directly on Highway 112, has been a signature facility AAREC since its opening in 1998. The building was funded by a combination of state and federal funds with the critical capping gift being made by Pauline Whitaker. It includes a 100’ x 250’ riding arena with permanent seating for 750. In addition, the Center has three classrooms that can seat 50 persons each; a 2500 sq. ft. foyer and reception area; a conference room; and a 10,000 sq. ft. show barn with twenty-five pens, scales, squeeze chute, and washing and drying areas located immediately adjacent to the Center.
Leland E. Tollett Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory
The 7,365 sq. ft. laboratory, opened in 2008, was made possible through a matching gift from the Tyson Foods Foundation. The Laboratory provides reliable, consistent, and timely animal disease diagnostic services, health monitoring programs, and authorized USDA testing programs.
The laboratory’s clientele includes the poultry industry, private veterinary practitioners, farmers, individual animal owners and university faculty.
Dorothy E. King Equine Pavilion
The Dorothy E. King Equine Pavilion, opened in 1999, is located adjacent to the Pauline Whitaker Animal Science Center and was made possible by a gift from the Carl B. and Florence E. King Foundation. The equine pavilion has a teaching area for students, ten stalls for horses, and a 150’ x 250’ lighted outdoor arena.
John K. Skeeles Poultry Health Laboratory
The 12,000 sq. ft. Poultry Health Laboratory is capable of the highest bio-safety rating (P3) of any university laboratory dedicated to poultry research. The Laboratory was completed in 1992 with state and federal funding. Current research in the laboratory includes work on probiotics and prebiotics to improve the health, performance, and food safety of poultry. The laboratory is named for the late Dr. John “Kirk” Skeeles who was a noted AES researcher in poultry health and veterinary science from 1978 to 1999.
Cargill Poultry Health Research Center
The 4,200 sq. ft. research facility, the newest at the Center and made possible through gifts from Cargill Protein, Tyson Foods, and the Tyson Foundation, allows AES poultry researchers to study alternatives to antibiotics. Poultry scientists, flock management specialists, and nutritionists are evaluating products currently available as well as developing novel and promising probiotics and other products for commercialization.
Cralley Warren Building
Constructed in 1967 and named the Virology and Biological Control Laboratory, it was renamed in August 1997 as the Cralley-Warren Laboratory in honor of two former directors of the Agricultural Experiment Station, Dr. E. M. Cralley (1959-1973) and Dr. Lloyd O. Warren (1973-1983). The laboratory supported AES field research in entomology and plant pathology and housed the first electron microscope in Fayetteville and was used by both AES and UAF scientists. The building has 11,200 sq. ft. with thirteen laboratories, and currently houses the Arkansas Plant Health Clinic.
Separated from the AAREC dairy pasture with the construction of Highway 112 in 1948, the nine acre Agri Park was the result, which later was greatly enhanced with the addition of the Col. T.H. Barton Pavilion in 1957. Barton Pavilion has the unique addition of a beam of lignum vitae engraved with the Panamanian coat of arms and six stones from Old Panama City dating from the sacking of that city by the buccaneer Sir Henry Morgan given as tokens of thanks for assistance provided to Panamanian agriculture by the Agricultural Experiment Station in the 1950s.