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September 13, 2000   Email to Friend 

September 13, 2000

The Chilton Area Horticulture Substation was officially designated as the Chilton Research and Extension Center Aug. 22 in Thorsby. The center includes a new Distance Diagnostic Program lab. The program is partially funded by the Alabama Farmers Federation and will serve farmers throughout the state.

Doug Rigney, executive director of the Alabama Farmers Federation, praised the timing of the center opening.

"This is an ideal time for Research and Extension to provide more support and help to Alabama farmers and to equip farmers with the latest methods and technology available," he said. "Farmers are probably in the most difficult time they've been in in a long time. Commodity prices are at their lowest, and farmers have had two straight years of difficult crop seasons. To compound that, the problems have been, for the most part, localized to Alabama and the Southeast. Other parts of the country will harvest bumper crops."

The Thorsby facility is the sixth center to open in Alabama since 1995. It's distance diagnostic lab gives the center the capability to help clients quickly identify and solve plant problems through the use of an Internet system, microscopes and digital cameras. Through this cutting-edge technology, samples can be sent anywhere in the country to get quick analysis.

The Chilton substation has helped farmers in the Chilton County area for 52 years. The upgrade to Research and Extension Center will allow it to assist farmers in a much larger region. Twelve counties are included in the center's coverage area.

Dr. William Walker, provost, Auburn University, said the opening of the center offers several unique opportunities to advance a number of important areas in agriculture while developing a stronger rural/urban interface. A number of spin-off programs from the commercial studies and educational programs developed at the Chilton Center will benefit all citizens of Alabama.

Because of the geographical location of the Chilton Center, strong relationships can be established between the C. Beaty Hanna Horticulture and Environmental Center in Birmingham and an urban center that is being planned for the Montgomery area. A Beef Cattle Improvement Association (BCIA) extension animal scientist also will be on board at the center. Extension Animal Scientist Lisa Kriese-Anderson explained that the goals of the station and BCIA are the same.

"At this station you look at new varieties to see which are going to produce the best and which ones are genetically the best. That's what the BCIA does, only for beef cattle, " she said.

The station was selected because of its location. Every beef cattle producer in the state can be reached within two hours of the center, Kriese-Anderson said. Extension is partnering with Alfa Farmers and the Alabama Cattlemen's Association to make sure Alabama beef cattle producers are able to market and be as economically viable as possible in an ever changing industry.

Bobby Boozer will serve as the first Extension staff member at the center.

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