Public invited to celebrate centennial of HAREC

June 18, 2009

HERMISTON, Ore. – Oregon State University's Hermiston Agricultural Research and Extension Center will celebrate its 100th birthday on June 30, and staff members are inviting the public to join the festivities.

The celebration begins at 2 p.m. at the center, which is located at 2121 South First St. in Hermiston, with a slide-show history of the experiment station and its successful collaborations with the community. There also will be exhibits, lab and field tours and entertainment for kids. Official presentations begin at 6 p.m., followed by a complimentary family-style dinner at 6:30 p.m. Live entertainment by country and folk singer John Wambeke is from 7 to 8 p.m.

Exhibits will feature 4-H projects, the Master Gardener program, and research and extension at the center. Tours around the station will showcase crops in the field; lab tours will highlight plant pathology, molecular genetics, riparian and agricultural entomology, horticulture and agronomy.

In 1909 the 40-acre "Umatilla Experiment Farm" began its mission to discover, teach and demonstrate how to make a living on the semi-arid land populated with little more than sagebrush in northwestern Umatilla County. During the 1930s the center moved to a larger tract of 260 acres, about four miles south of its former location.

Over the last 18 years, the center has installed five center-pivot irrigation systems funded through donations by local businesses and growers. It is one of the few experiment stations in the nation with its own extensive irrigation equipment to use for research. Public donations and grants also funded two 36-by-72-foot screen houses to help researchers study plant diseases carried by insects.

"HAREC researchers have helped growers turn what some once considered a wasteland into an irrigated production area of high-value crops," said Sandy DeBano, professor of fisheries and wildlife at the center. "For example, the value of watermelon – one of the prominent crops in the Hermiston area – can exceed $10,000 per acre."

Researchers at the Hermiston Center also are helping to produce potato varieties whose colored pigments increase antioxidant value and are marketed for their nutritional value, unique color and tuber shape.

The ongoing restoration of the Umatilla River continues to be a priority with Hermiston researchers. Irrigators and tribal leaders worked together in the 1980s to restore water to the Umatilla River, which now again sustains salmon and provides water for crops. The interaction between agriculture and ecosystem services provided by local streams and rivers, including fish production, is a major source of study at the center, DeBano said.

For 100 years OSU research at the Hermiston Center has served Umatilla County, which ranks third in farm sales in Oregon and also grows field and sweet corn, canola, grass seed, peas, carrots and onions.

Author: Judy Scott
Source: Sandy DeBano