Plant Science Day

by Bill Duesing

First broadcast on WSHU/WSUF-FM, August 9, 1996

Earlier this year, Governor Rowland wanted to shut down the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. Citizens and organizations, alike, rallied to the Station's support. And no wonder. We have the first Experiment Station in this country, and one of the few that isn't connected to a land grant college. It has a proud history of significant accomplishments. But, I think it is the range and substance of this Station's present research which engender so much loyalty and appreciation.

Other taxpayer-financed agricultural establishments conduct studies which develop uses for new chemicals, or try to splice one species' genes into those of another, for very narrowly focused human ends. Often, this research aims to solve problems that don't even exist under good organic growing conditions. Like the chemical companies which breed herbicide-resistance into our food crops as a sales tool for their particular brand of herbicide, these efforts focus on making money for the institution which funds the discovery, rather than on solving the problem in the easiest, most direct way. These high-tech solutions seem to benefit the largest farms and their input suppliers primarily.

This is the reason why the work of Connecticut's Experiment Station is so refreshing and important. Its research seems to be at the core of what is wanted and needed by our citizens. It is much more likely to benefit home gardeners, small-scale farmers and green businesses than are the products of genetic engineering.

Next Wednesday, the station will show off some of what it's been up to at Plant Science Day, celebrated at Lockwood Farm, not far off Whitney Avenue, which is Route 10, in the Mt. Carmel section of Hamden.

Lockwood Farm, with sweeping views of the Sleeping Giant and West Rock ridge, is open from 10 to 4. Admission and ample parking are free of charge. At 11:30, a special program, including the Century Farm Award and the Johnson Memorial Lecture, will be held in the large tent. Pierre Bennerup, whose Sunny Border Nursery is a national source of a nearly endless variety of perennial flowers, lectures on "Redefining Horticulture for the 21st Century." Before and after this event, station scientists present short talks on such topics as composting, pruning and grafting trees and the new tastes and aromas of specialty melons. Bring your lunch. Sandwiches are available. Coffee and punch are free.

Our main interest is in the experiments being carried out on the research plots which cover much of the farm. Station scientists have been conducting long-term, ongoing studies to find ways to bring the native Chestnut tree back to our forests, and to discover how to effectively use compost to grow vegetables. This year they are also researching organic production methods and their effects on insect pests. This is of particular interest to us.

Lockwood Farm has extensive plantings of perennial favorites like asparagus, grapes, raspberries and apples. These plots are used to find more successful ways for gardeners and farmers to produce these delicious foods, using few synthetic chemicals, or none at all.

This year the Station will also show off experiments on medicinal herbs, hydroponic lettuce and bees, as well as on tomatoes, pumpkins, eggplants, sweet corn and melons.

Visitors receive a program book which gives each experiment's location and a brief description. Scientists are stationed at their plots most of the day ready to explain their work and answer questions. Many of the results will be made available in the bulletins the stations publishes, which are free on request. Another experiment highlights important research the station has done on Lyme Disease and the deer ticks which carry it.

The flax spinning and processing demonstration is always very popular. It's amazing how the spindly, dried stalks of this common plant can be turned, with a few old-time tools, into soft and beautiful linen.

If you want a schedule of the talks, or need directions, call the Experiment Station's main number in New Haven, at 203-789-7272. The Station also does soil tests, and provides advice on insect problems and plant diseases, free of charge. Station scientists are happy to provide specific advice for organic gardeners and farmers. That number again is 203-789-7272.

See you next Wednesday at Lockwood Farm for Plant Science Day.

This is Bill Duesing, Living on the Earth

This page and its contents are copyright © 1996-1997 by WSHU-FM, Fairfield, CT, and by Bill Duesing.