In the following stories, we look at some of the Colleges most important partners, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services; county governments; groups representing the farmers who produce various commodities; and organizations, such as the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, that help provide students with meaningful experiences.
Joe Hampton can guarantee at least a few below-zero temperatures each winter at the Upper Mountain Research Station. In 52 years of recording station temperatures, Hampton, the station superintendent, says the highest temperature recorded was 92; the coldest was minus 26. Cold winters make the station the perfect place to test plants for cold hardiness.
If a new cultivar survives our winter, we can say with some assurance it will be cold-hardy for the rest of the state, says Hampton. The stations climate also makes it ideal for research on fungal diseases such as blue mold in tobacco and gray leaf spot in corn. Because it doesnt get hot and dry enough to kill the fungi that cause these diseases, scientists are guaranteed they can do experiments involving the diseases.
College researchers work at all of the 16 stations scattered across the state. Six are owned by North Carolina State University; the other 10 by the NCDA&CS. They represent every geographic and environmental condition in the state.
Two stations, the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research Station at Fletcher and the Tidewater Research Station at Plymouth, also have research and extension centers on their grounds. These centers provide lab and office space for the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service and the North Carolina Agricultural Research Service.
Any discussion of research stations would be incomplete without a mention of the Center for Environmental Farming Systems at Goldsboro. A partnership with the NCDA&CS and North Carolina A&T State University, the center is reserved for research on sustainable and organic farming.
These far-flung facilities are as different and varied as North Carolina. Yet all are real-world laboratories indispensable for scientists working to solve real-world problems.
It seems likely that what Alexander Sandy Stewart is learning about how to apply growth-regulating chemicals will save cotton growers money.
Stewart is a masters student working with Dr. Keith Edmisten, a crop scientist. He is experimenting with a wick applicator that wipes, rather than sprays, chemicals on cotton.
Growth regulators are applied to cotton to limit plant height. But cotton plants are usually uneven in height. Spraying the same amount of chemical on all the plants means that while the growth of taller plants may be limited, the growth of shorter plants will also be limited, an unintended and unwelcome result. And some of the chemical invariably is sprayed on the ground, where it does no good.
The wick applicator can be set to brush chemicals above the shorter plants, where they are needed. Stewart says growers may be able to cut chemical usage by one half to one third. That would cut chemical costs considerably.
Stewarts work is made possible in part by stipends from Cotton Inc. and the North Carolina Cotton Promotion Association. The funding is but one result of partnerships the College has formed with farmers organizations.
North Carolina is the third most agriculturally diverse state in the nation, and virtually every commodity produced in the state is represented by an organization. The College interacts with all these groups, says Dr. George Kriz, associate director of the North Carolina Agricultural Research Service. Kriz has listed on his 1999 calendar 103 meetings involving commodity groups and College faculty members. The first meeting is Jan. 3; the last is Dec. 11.
Twenty-eight commodity organizations support the College with funding ranging from $2,500 to close to $300,000 annually. Perhaps just as important as the funding is the two-way communication between the associations and the College. By designating the projects their money is to support, commodity groups provide insight into their needs and concerns.
At the same time, commodity organizations serve as a conduit to help faculty to get information to farmers and others quickly and efficiently.
For decades, rural communities have struggled to meet wastewater treatment needs in ways that sustain growth yet protect the environment. A new center in Brunswick County is aimed at helping environmental engineers, home builders, septic tank installers and others better understand the latest wastewater treatment options.
The Southeast Regional On-Site Wastewater Training Center in Bolivia, N.C., will feature seven functional domestic wastewater treatment systems approved for use along North Carolinas southeastern coast.
According to Brunswick County Extension Director Phil Ricks, the facility could not have been built if not for a strong partnership among the College and county, state and federal governments.
Cooperative Extension secured a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant to fund the project. Building the facility required the expertise and support of faculty members in soil science and biological and agricultural engineering, Extension Master Gardener volunteers, the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and several county agencies. The involvement of three area county health departments was especially critical in ensuring that the facility meets area needs, Ricks says.
Such county government support has long been key to enabling Extension to meet its educational mission. County governments provide for county Extension centers and contribute to operating and personnel budgets for the field faculty. Their appropriations complement those from state and federal governments, particularly the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
For more than 15 years, Dr. Charles Lytle has worked to help science teachers spark their students interest and understanding. The professor of zoology and head of Biology Outreach Programs says his efforts spring from enlightened self-interest.
The College has, for example, provided a training and support program for teachers in rural and economically disadvantaged areas. Since its inception six years ago, the program has been supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
In September, the institute awarded a second $1.4 million grant to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences. The funds will be used to enrich and broaden science education for seventh- to 12th-graders and university undergraduates.
The grant enables Lytle and his colleagues to build upon the strengths of N.C. State programs especially the Biology Outreach Programs and The Science House that reach more than 20,000 K-12 students and teachers annually.
The Pre-College Program will sponsor science and technology career conferences for 2,000 seventh-graders and summer research programs for high school student-teacher teams. It also will establish a Science House satellite in a 10-county area of northeastern North Carolina. The office, staffed by a master teacher, will provide teacher training and computer and lab equipment loans.
In addition, Teaching With Research workshops will show teachers the benefits of active classroom learning and the potential of new technologies to facilitate such learning.
With support from the first Hughes grant, Dena Bradham, a biology teacher at Triton High School in Erwin, learned to use computer-based technology to help students understand science concepts.
As her students became more confident, they became more eager to learn. Other teachers noticed and became involved. They sought and obtained resources for a permanent lab with computers, probes, digital balances, microscopes and laser-disc players.
With teachers like Bradham changing the way science is taught, Lytle is confident the Colleges outreach programs are making a difference.