University farm in full swing with research

Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Dr. Randy Shaw, dean of the School of Polytechnic Studies at Southeast Missouri State University, gives an overview of the David M. Barton Agriculture Research Center at a dedication ceremony Monday near Dutchtown. Seated are Southeast president Dr. Ken Dobbins and June Barton.

Brittni Peck is spending the last semester of her senior year at Southeast Missouri State University collecting and analyzing DNA samples from cattle.

She said her animal breeding class comes out the Barton Agriculture Research Center once or twice a week. Peck, who will attend veterinary school at the University of Missouri next year, said working at the farm during her time as an undergraduate gave her an academic boost.

"I really think the hands-on experience gave me an advantage in getting into grad school," said Peck, a senior in biomedical sciences.

On Monday, university officials and students gathered to rename the center, which has been at its current location for two years. In October, June Barton gifted 850 acres of farmland in New Madrid County to the university, a multimillion dollar donation. The university renamed the farm in honor of Barton's husband David, who died in 1987.

"I did this for the university because I think it is important for young people to have a good education," she said at the dedication.

The marker for the David M. Barton Agriculture Research Center was unveiled by agriculture students at Southeast Missouri State University following a ceremony Monday near Gordonville. (Fred Lynch)

Proceeds from selling the land will establish two endowments, one to develop the facilities at the center and another to establish a scholarship for agriculture students at Southeast.

"The funding from this gift will ensure we have resources needed for cutting-edge research," said University president Dr. Ken Dobbins.

The university moved the farm from its old location along Interstate 55 to a 252-acre farm south of Gordonville two years ago. The old site was to be developed into a technology park attracting companies to do applied research, including projects in agriculture and life sciences.

While research projects are in full swing at the farm's new site, development is lagging at the technology park. Dobbins said the project will proceed once the economy improves.

"If the economy were better, we probably would've already started something," he said.

Once the remaining cattle at the old location are slaughtered, the farm will be closed this summer, said Dr. Randy Shaw, dean of the school of Polytechnic Studies.

At the new location, the university allocated 100 acres for crop science experiments. The center uses 150 acres for beef operations, including research on different varieties of grass and DNA tracking for breeding, Shaw said.

Experiments doubled the yield of corn per acre during the first year, said Dr. Michael Aide, chairman of the agriculture department. The farm is also experimenting with a tile drainage and irrigation system. It drains quickly and irrigates when dry, a system that is unique to the region, Aide said.

Aide said he also hopes to have the entire farm running on solar power in a year, depending on available grant money.

"We're going to go ahead and do it piecemeal if we have to," he said. The farm's irrigation pumps already run on solar power, he said.

abusch@semissourian.com

388-3627

Pertinent address:

6885 State Highway 25 Gordonville, MO

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