Ag News

UGA-Tifton Campus celebrates 100th anniversary

By Jennifer Whittaker, Georgia Farm Bureau

Georgia agriculture is observing a major milestone this year as the UGA-Tifton Campus turns 100. The campus held a day-long celebration May 3 to celebrate the innovative ag research the UGA College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences (CAES) has conducted in Tifton since 1919.

The UGA-Tifton Campus was originally known as the Coastal Plain Experiment Station. After the Georgia Experiment Station was established in 1888, farmers saw the need for a similar research farm in South Georgia that could address the warmer climate and sandier soils south of the “fall line." The Georgia Legislature passed an act to create the Coastal Plain Experiment Station (CPES) in August 1918. In May 1919, the CPES Board of Trustees chose Tifton as the site for the experiment station over Baxley, Savannah, Sylvester and Waycross.

UGA administrators, faculty, staff and members of Georgia’s ag community gathered at the UGA-Tifton Campus Conference Center the morning of May 3 for a formal program.

“Agriculture is Georgia’s number one industry and the UGA-Tifton Campus has played a vital role in helping our farmers build this industry and sustain its success,” UGA President Jere Morehead said. 

Other speakers included Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black, U.S. Rep. Austin Scott, UGA CAES Dean Sam Pardue, UGA-Tifton Assistant Dean Joe West and USDA National Institute of Food & Agriculture Director Scott Angle.

“Of all the things we do in Washington, nothing is more important than protecting our nation’s food supply. If a nation can’t feed itself it can’t defend itself,” Scott said. “The science and education that comes from this campus promotes food security and peace around the world.”

Prior to heading home to Tifton for the celebration, Scott introduced a proclamation to the U.S. House of Representatives marking the centennial anniversary of the UGA-Tifton Campus. He presented a copy of the proclamation to UGA administrators.

Burton (forages & grasses), W.T. Brightwell (blueberry variety breeder), Frank McGill (peanuts), Hanna (turf grasses) and Peggy Ozias-Akins (peanut genome mapper) are some of the world-renowned scientists who have worked at the UGA Tifton Campus.

Angle, who served as CAES dean from 2005-2015, shared he has learned as he’s traveled the world that the UGA Tifton campus is known around the globe as the research home of Glenn Burton and Wayne Hanna. Burton is frequently referenced as one of three fathers of the Green Revolution, Angle said. Hanna is known for developing turf grass varieties used at many of the significant sports venues worldwide.

“He [Burton] is known for the pearl millet and forage grasses he developed to feed animals. Burton’s research has probably saved hundreds of millions of lives,” Angle said. “One hundred years - you can get a lot of work done in that amount of time. The amount of work this campus has accomplished boggles the mind. That’s why the Tifton campus is known globally around the world and I know great things are yet to come.”

UGA-Tifton graduated its first class of students in 2004. The campus offers undergraduate programs of study in agribusiness, ag education, agriscience and environmental systems and biological science. Master’s degrees are available in agricultural & environmental education and plant protection & pest management.

“The staff and faculty here at this campus get up each day to do research in cutting edge science that has been a tradition at this campus. Our scientists continue to lead the way with greater discoveries,” Pardue said.

Celebration attendees had a chance to meet some of the campus’ future stars during a research poster competition held before the formal program. CAES students at the Tifton campus displayed posters summarizing research they are conducting to address current issues Georgia farmers are facing.

The celebration continued during the afternoon of May 3 with the dedication of a formal garden planted behind the H.H. Tift Building using plant and shrub varieties developed by researchers at the UGA CAES. The garden beds are bordered with Georgia granite. The grass borders in and around the garden are planted in TifTuf, the latest UGA CAES commercial turf bermudagrass variety. The centennial garden is similar to the one that was located on the same spot in the early days of the Coastal Plain Experiment Station. The original garden was paved for parking years ago.

CAES alumni enjoyed a barbecue and tours of the Future Homestead, which opened in 2015. This energy independent home/lab is dedicated to developing and demonstrating advanced technologies for net-zero energy homes and sustainable gardening. The farmstead highlights how an array of wireless internet control systems, cameras and other sensors can help farmers check on and manage livestock, distant fields, irrigation systems, locate equipment, and even people from nearly anywhere.

The day-long centennial celebration ended with a concert and fireworks on the front lawn of the Tifton-Campus on Baldwin Drive in front of the campus’ historic H.H. Tift Building built in 1922.