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UA's Yuma Farm impacts agriculture worldwide


Arizona Daily Wildcat

Photo Courtesy of Yuma Agricultural Center website Taken in 1950, workers at the Yuma Valley Farm look over lettuce crops. The UA facility was founded in 1906, largely by Robert Forbes, former College of Agriculture dean.

By Jesus Lopez Jr.
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
August 30, 1999

YUMA - For more than 90 years, a small farm has sat amidst an array of desert fields in the southwest Arizona town of Yuma.

However, the work done on this farm is so far-reaching, it affects agriculture on the other side of the world.

Late August is the busiest time of the year on this farm. In the distance, a tractor is rumbling through, ready to plow the rows in the fields in preparation for planting lettuce.

Situated near the sand dunes, the University of Arizona's Yuma Valley Farm was created in 1906 on 40 acres to serve the agricultural community of the Yuma area.

The facility's research also affects agriculture in countries like Egypt and Pakistan with their work on fertilizers, pest resistance and plant adaptation problems.

"It is of great importance the stream of work done for agriculture," said research specialist Manual Peralta. "This is one of the best known centners on a national level."

In its two Yuma locations, totaling 514 acres, the department studies problems with irrigation, soil and pests around the area.

Yuma residents can also come to the center to earn a degree, learning through real-world experience.

Area farmers come to the UA with their concerns and ask the scientists to solve their agricultural problems, which creates a link with the people of Yuma.

"With the U of A being in Tucson, this is how the university connects with people in this part of the state," entomologist David Kerns said.

While Yuma farm researchers assist local farmers, large corporations like Dow Chemicals, Zenica and Rohn and Haas also come to the center with research questions.

Kerns said the farm makes a lot of money through cooperative research.

There is never any down-time for the researchers because of the diverse agricultural elements, like the variety of soil and crops grown in the Yuma area, Kerns said

He added that the center is always changing to meet the diverse needs of the community.

The farm focuses on vegetables like lettuce, broccoli and cauliflower in its Valley Agriculture Center, and alfalfa, citrus, carrots, blackberries and apples in its Mesa center in their ground water, entomology, plant sciences and pathology departments.

The farms may begin to focus on new crops like dates in the future, Kerns said.

In addition to Yuma, the UA also has agriculture centers in La Paz County, Marana, Wilcox and Maricopa County.

In May 1996, Charles Sanchez, a water and soil specialist was named Resident Director of the Yuma Agricultural Centers. Sanchez has a double appointment, serving as both a researcher and a farm director.

The college was created by Robert Forbes, former College of Agriculture dean and director of Arizona Agricultural Experiment Stations. Forbes helped acquire date shoots from Morocco and Egypt to be planted at the Yuma farm.

The program will keep adjusting and looking to the future, Kerns said. The facility is scheduled to go through remodeling in the next five years, to have a better place to solve the agricultural problems of the community and other countries.

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