Allen D. Owings, C.P. Hegwood, Himelrick, David G.
BATON ROUGE – "The last time I was here two years ago, this was a hay field," said Larry Bourgeois. "It was fun to drive up and see what they’ve done."
Bourgeois of Covington Nursery was one of the visitors at the inaugural nursery, landscape and floriculture open house at the ornamental and turfgrass research facility at the LSU AgCenter’s Burden Center in Baton Rouge Friday (April 23).
The former 25-acre hay field is now horticultural research space. "This is a welcomed and valuable addition to Burden Center," said Dr. Pat Hegwood, the center’s resident director.
Burden Center is a 420-acre facility in Baton Rouge and one of 20 research stations operated in Louisiana by the LSU AgCenter. Including 15 acres of formal gardens and 150 acres of forest, the center originally was owned by the Burden family from the mid 1800s until the final segment was donated to LSU in the early 1990s.
The new horticulture research area joins formal gardens and plant collections, the Ione Burden Conference Center, the Steele Burden Memorial Orangerie and the All-America rose display garden, as well as the Rural Life Museum, which is operated by the LSU A&M campus.
Dr. Allen Owings, an ornamental horticulture specialist with the LSU AgCenter, said the research programs at Burden are designed to support commercial nursery, landscape and turfgrass operators in Louisiana. Many of the research results also are adaptable to homes, he said.
Owings said wholesale nursery production in Louisiana is concentrated in three areas – the Folsom/Amite/Covington area, the Forest Hill area and the Lafayette/Opelousas/New Iberia area.
Wholesale production of nursery plants is a $100 million to $120 million per year industry, Owings said. But when you add retail sales, landscaping and other segments of what is known as the green industry, the contribution to the Louisiana economy approaches $2.2 billion a year.
Owings said the top research priorities for the industry are plant evaluation and weed, disease and insect control followed by irrigation and fertilizer usage.
"I think it going to be very good for the nursery industry," Bourgeois said of the new research facility. "We’ve needed this type of research for a long time."
Bourgeois said he believes the LSU AgCenter’s research will mirror the conditions the nurseries face and provide answers to the problems they have.
Cody Arceneaux, the current president of the Louisiana Nursery and Landscape Association, said his organization contributed funds to the research facility with a part of a grant it received from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
"The nursery industry appreciates the AgCenter’s efforts," said Arceneaux, who operates Live Oak Gardens in New Iberia. "Our commitment stands because what [they] do affects us every day.
"We look forward to years of great research and positive gain from this facility," he said.
The investment in the research facility also included funds from the LSU AgCenter.
"What’s happened here would not have happened without support and encouragement from the Louisiana Nursery and Landscape Association," said LSU AgCenter Chancellor Dr. Bill Richardson. "This is the beginning."
As part of the field day that drew about 80 visitors, LSU AgCenter researchers presented information on new crape myrtle varieties and demonstration plots of an array of early-season bedding plants.
Dr. David Himelrick, head of the LSU AgCenter’s Department of Horticulture, said future plans include research areas for turfgrass and flowers as well as greenhouses.
"We have lots of plans for the future," he said.
The LSU AgCenter is planning another open house at the facility for the fall –when other plants will be available for evaluation, Owings said.
Allen Owings at (225) 578-2222 or firstname.lastname@example.org
David Himelrick at (225) 578-2158 or email@example.com
Pat Hegwood at (225) 763-5511 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Rick Bogren at (225) 578-5839 or email@example.com