A Quick Look at the Agricultural Research Stations
The University of WI-Madison campus is home to the Agricultural Research Stations Department. The administrative offices for the department are located on the Arlington Agricultural Research Station at N695 Hopkins Rd, Arlington, WI 53911. The administration of the department is assigned to the Director of the Agricultural Research Stations, who is responsible to the Dean and Director of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences through the Associate Dean and Director of the College’s Research Division.
When campus-based specialists are ready to try ideas in an outdoor laboratory, their first stop is often the Arlington Agricultural Research Station. Located 20 miles north of Madison, the 2000-plus acre station includes some of Wisconsin’s best cropland, plus greenhouses, laboratories and housing for many types of livestock. In addition, the station operates a central feed mill to provide special feed rations for the many research animals housed on the station. There is no single focus to the station’s research; rather, the station supports a wide cross section of research. The Arlington Station is used by almost all disciplines in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and serves as an important field laboratory for College faculty from the departments of Agronomy, Animal Sciences, Biological Systems Engineering, Dairy Science, Entomology, Forest Ecology and Management, Genetics, Horticulture, Plant Pathology, and Soil Science.
The Hancock Agricultural Research Station is located on 412 acres in Waushara County in the part of Wisconsin known as the “Golden Sands”. The station’s sandy soils, most of which are irrigated, are representative of almost 2.5 million acres of sandy plain in central Wisconsin. Research at the Hancock station focuses on irrigated vegetable and field crops with an emphasis on potatoes, snap beans, cucumbers, field corn, sweet corn and alfalfa. The station has been recognized for sustainable agriculture research and outreach activities, and for research and demonstration work that supports integrated agricultural systems, particularly those focusing on ground water quality, environmental quality, and wind erosion. The station is also home to the Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Storage Research Facility which was designed and built by the potato and vegetable growers of Wisconsin and donated to the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2006. Research conducted at this facility is a cooperative effort between Wisconsin potato and vegetable growers, industry representatives and the University of Wisconsin-Madison research groups.
Located in Oneida County, the heart of Wisconsin’s Northwoods, the Kemp Natural Resources Station is dedicated to research, instruction, and outreach concerning the management, conservation, and the sustainable use of northern Wisconsin’s natural resources. Situated on the shores of Lake Tomahawk, the station supports a diverse wildlife population and some of the last remnants of old-growth forests in the Lake States, making Kemp an exceptional research and educational facility. A varied and active research program tackles tough questions, providing answers necessary for wise natural resources management and use. An extensive curriculum, involving field trips, hands-on workshops and outdoor lectures, prepares students to become tomorrow’s natural resource managers. In addition, a successful series of outreach programs puts research to work, linking UW-Madison with the residents of northern Wisconsin.
The Lancaster Agricultural Research Station is located in Grant County on hills and valleys that are typical of southwest Wisconsin, an area of the state that was spared when massive glaciers graded the rest of the state 10,000 years ago. The station’s soil and topography are representative of roughly 40 million acres in the Upper Mississippi Valley. The station’s research emphasis is on environmentally sound agricultural and natural resource systems and practices appropriate for producers and rural landowners on the un-glaciated soils in the upper Midwest. This includes soil and water conservation, field crop production and management, beef cattle feeding, management, breeding and reproduction, rotational grazing and pasture management, crop rotations, and integrated agricultural systems.
The Marshfield Agricultural Research Station operates 1,250 acres of land on two farm sites in Wood County and Marathon County. The station serves north-central Wisconsin, the most intensive dairying area in the state. Over fifty percent of Wisconsin’s dairy farms are located in the north central and northern Wisconsin area. Thus, dairy related research with emphasis on heifer rearing and management is the major focus at this station. However, there is also extensive work done on field crops, land drainage, soil fertility, waste management, farm economics, and crop storage. Crop breeding and evaluation research done on the station have helped make northern Wisconsin a viable area for growing forages, small grains and corn. The Marshfield Station is also home to the UW Soil and Forage Analysis Laboratory and the USDA Institute for Environmentally Integrated Dairy Management.
The O.J. Noer Turfgrass Research and Education Facility is dedicated to the testing, development, and promotion of turfgrass and turfgrass management technologies. Located southwest of Madison near the town of Verona, the O.J. Noer facility was developed by the Wisconsin Turfgrass Association in partnership with the UW Foundation and Agricultural Research Stations. Research is often multi-disciplinary and focuses on turfgrass species, strategies for fertilizer, irrigation and pest management, mowing strategies and equipment and general turfgrass management. There are typically 70 to 80 or more projects conducted at the facility each year. The station is used from early spring through late fall for student outdoor laboratory sessions and classes from College departments that include Soil Science, Entomology, Plant Pathology, Horticulture and Biological Systems Engineering. The facility is also home to the UW-Madison Turfgrass Diagnostic Lab, where homeowners and professional turf managers call to get unbiased, science based answers to all their turf related questions.
The Peninsular Agricultural Research Station is located just north of Sturgeon Bay in Door County. The waters of nearby Green Bay and Lake Michigan have a powerful influence over the county’s climate, producing late springs, cool summers and mild extended autumns that are well suited to fruit production. The major research focus of the station is on producing, managing, and processing fruit crops. Fruit specialists work to create new varieties, evaluate cultivars and rootstocks, develop pest control programs and conduct other research to improve yields and quality of apples, cherries, strawberries, raspberries and grapes. Small grains and vegetable research is also conducted at the station. The Peninsular Station serves as a focal point for interaction among researchers, educators, growers, and industry. Station staff provide Outreach and Extension services to Door and Kewaunee Counties. The Peninsular station is the site of “The Garden Door”, a cooperative project with the Door County Master Gardener’s Association. “The Garden Door” is a 1 acre showcase flower and landscape garden. The station is also home to the US Potato Genebank which maintains the world’s largest collection of wild and cultivated potato species and coordinates potato germplasm resources for scientists and breeders around the world.
Located in Onieda County on loamy sand soil, the Rhinelander Agricultural Station supports the research, instruction and outreach efforts of UW-Madison scientists in developing the Wisconsin state potato variety breeding program and solving problems of agricultural and natural resource management in northern Wisconsin. The station has been a home for University potato breeding research for over 60 years. These studies involve genetics and cytogenetics, the breeding of new varieties, the development of new breeding methods, and work with wild species of potatoes. The potatoes are grown in rotation with corn, oats, wheat, sudangrass, or other suitable crops that offer other compatible research opportunities to UW-Madison researchers. The station is home to the Wisconsin Potato Varietal Breeding Project, a long-standing research and breeding project that has produced several new varieties of commercial potatoes that are now grown around the world.
As the College’s first permanent outlying research station, the Spooner Agricultural Research Station gave university scientists a place to work out their ideas under the unique conditions of northern Wisconsin. Major research focuses on field and horticultural crop production and management, irrigation, and forestry. In addition, the station serves as an important location to investigate specialty crops in an attempt to diversify crop production in the short season environment. From 1936-2016, the Spooner Station was a center for UW-Madison sheep research, helping sheep producers make better use of their forage, improve management practices and increase the reproductive efficiency of their animals. The station was host to one of the nation’s leading dairy sheep research programs, which focused on the genetic improvement of dairy sheep and production of sheep milk for processing into cheese, before the program ended in 2016. The Spooner Agricultural Research Station shares their offices with UW Extension faculty in an administrative arrangement referred to as the “Northern Wisconsin Ag Initiative” whose main objective is to combine the skills and expertise of station staff and Extension faculty to serve the needs of northwestern Wisconsin.
The West Madison Agricultural Research Station is located on the western edge of the city of Madison, approximately 8 miles from the UW-Madison Campus. The 570 acre station is used for research which requires frequent visitation, measurements, sampling, close and constant ties with campus laboratory facilities, precise irrigation control, or large uniform areas for the production of high quality forages that are used in rations for the campus livestock research programs. The station’s close proximity to campus is essential to providing hands-on research and instructional experiences for both graduate and undergraduate students, many of whom do not have agricultural backgrounds. In addition, the station is developing into a recognized center for urban agriculture, offering the surrounding community many opportunities for public instruction. Self-guided, or hosted tours of the station’s Horticultural and Demonstration Gardens are available throughout the growing season. The display garden showcases a collection of annual and perennial ornamentals, the newest varieties of vegetables, and several fruits including apples, blueberries, and raspberries, as well as a growing collection of cold-hardy table and wine grapes.
Tucked in a bend of the Wisconsin River about 30 miles north of Madison, the field research facilities of the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center are a cooperative effort between the U.S Department of Agriculture, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and other land grant universities. The Center focuses on problems that are national in scope and that limit effective and efficient use of forage for milk production. Research is directed toward increasing yields and quality of forage grown and harvested, reducing losses associated with harvesting, storage and feeding, and maximizing the use of forage nutrients by the dairy cow for milk production. The University provides the center’s foundation dairy herd and both the herd and research facility are available for research by College of Agricultural and Life Sciences researchers who work cooperatively with USDA scientists on a wide range of projects.
The College of Agricultural and Life Sciences operates a number of research and instructional greenhouses under a centralized management system that is administered by the Agricultural Research Stations. The mission of the greenhouse operations is to provide quality plant growing space for research and instruction conducted by the departments and programs of the College. The Centralized Greenhouse System strives to maximize the utilization and efficiency of these facilities in order to provide for the needs of as many researchers and instructional programs as possible. The current greenhouse operations includes the Walnut Street Greenhouse complex, the D.C. Smith Greenhouse and Conservatory, and the Soils Greenhouse complex. Additional greenhouse facilities at the West Madison Agricultural Research Station are available for campus-based research and instructional programs as well.