1927 on the rice branch experiment station
By G. Heartsill Banks
For Mrs. Mary Vore as a feature for Cheese Factory Special of Carlisle Weekly
In Arkansas County, between Stuttgart and Almyra, is located the Rice Branch Experiment Station of the College of Agriculture of the University of Arkansas. One hundred and sixty acres of land, with a frontage of one and one-quarter miles on a paved road, comprise the station farm.
G. Heartsill Banks
The land was originally prairie sod, some of it has been in rice for eighteen years,
and it is typical of the majority of the rice-growing soils of Arkansas. Along with
its long use to rice growing, the farm has fallen heir to many if not all the pests
that bring grief to the rice farmer, but this fact only affords the greater opportunity
Work was started on the station Dec. 13, 1926, and has progressed steadily. The transition from a commercial rice farm to an experiment station is necessarily a slow process, but from the beginning of the work, the fundamentals of agricultural research have been kept uppermost in the minds of the college authorities.
The scope of the station's activities includes not only a study of rice, but of such other crops as are or should be in the farm program of every rice grower. Crops that build up the fertility, crops that clean up the land from foul weeds and grasses, crops that afford a supplementary source of cash income, all these are being worked on. During the past year experiments were conducted upon rice, oats,soybeans, mung beans, sudan gras, orchards and permanent pasture, all of which come under the above-mentioned groups.
There are a great many experiment stations where all these crops except rice are being carefully studied. However, this station is one of only four in the United States that undertake rice experimental research, the others being located in Louisiana, Texas and California. Several of our colonial possessions do this sort of work, notably Hawaii, Philippine Islands and Puerto Rico.
Five major problems of rice growing were studied in 1927: The rate of seeding, the date of seeding, variety tests, grass control tests, and fertilizer tests. In addition, studies were made of some of the worst insect and plant disease enemies of the rice crop. Each of these experiments was conducted in co-operation with some specialist in that line from the station staff at Fayetteville, and frequent contact was maintained between these men and the Assistant Director, who has his residence on the Rice Station.
The first year's results of any experiment station cannot definitely prove anything, but they can strongly indicate. In the case of this station, a great deal has been learned along every line. For instance, Barnyard grass (echinochloa colona), one of the worst pests of the rice fields, has been absolutely eliminated on plots treated in a particular fashion. But while this much was being learned, the further fact has been developed that this treatment (planting in water) tends to cause another weed to multiply and choke out the rice. The difference in yield caused by varying depths and dates of watering has varied as much as 27.53 bushels per acre.
The rice work in 1927 was confined to one forty-acre tract, laid out in rectangular levees. Some idea of the enormous amount of detail of an experiment station may be gained from the knowledge that nearly twelve miles of levees were necessary to control accurately the irrigation of these tests. Another forty acres was ploughed throughout the summer, and as a result of this summer fallowing it should be easier to produce clean rice.
Available July first, is a fund for developing the physical plant of the station. Two major ideas dominate the plans for this building program: first, permanence; second, efficiency. The station is more than a rice farm, it is vastly different than a demonstration farm; it is a state institution and is part of the great university. Therefore, all buildings and roadways must be planned for permanence insofar as it is humanly possible. It is not enough to plan ahead for five or ten years; the experiment station will be going right ahead fifty or a hundred years from now.
As to efficiency, the location of the buildings and the trees to be planted must be just right. The interior plans of the experiment station buildings allow for development and expansion of scientific methods. The granary and re-cleaning building, for instance, will have more space than is needed for the present, but there must be room to experiment with machinery that will be invented later on.
Located on one of the best paved roads in the state, the Rice Branch Experiment Station is seen by thousands of people every day. Many of them stop and go over their problems with the Assistant Director, and the institution enjoys the heartiest co-operation, not only from Stuttgart and Almyra, but from the entire rice area of the state. A study of the visitor's record show that they have come in the main from Arkansas, but the following states have also contributed visitors to swell the grand total: Louisiana, Texas, Tennessee, Iowa, Missouri, New York, and Georgia, Ohio, Kansas, Illinois, Wyoming, Montana, Wisconsin, fourteen in all. There has also been one visitor from the District of Columbia, one from the Philippine Islands and one from the Dominion of Canada.
All this has happened in one year. A look into the future presents a prospect indeed. Thousands of dollars saved for every rice farm in America as a result of the experiments; an institution whose attractive appearance and efficiency will be a source of pride to all; a community center where all who are interested in agriculture can gather, feeling free to do so, because it is a part of the University of Arkansas, and, in the last analysis, belongs in part, to every citizen of our great state.