West Virginia is celebrating 150 years of statehood. Learn about the year-long celebration at wv150.com. Meanwhile, we are compiling a…
INSTITUTE, WV – The West Virginia Regional Technology Park in South Charleston has been invaded by Yellow Jackets. That is, the West Virginia State University Yellow Jackets. Staff members with WVSU’s Agricultural and Environmental Research Station (AERS) moved into offices and laboratory space at the hilltop facility in July.
Currently, three labs and multiple offices are housing WVSU-led projects focusing on agricultural and environmental research. Drs. Barbara Liedl and Amir Hass are working out of the facility fulltime, with technician and graduate student assistance.
Hass’s research at the lab is aimed at developing environmentally sound, agronomically beneficial and economically viable solutions to minimize the environmental footprint of selected land uses.
“We are working to develop solutions to promote sustainable use of soil and water resources and improve the quality of life and economy of our local communities,” says Hass.
Liedl’s work will focus on improving disease resistance in crops. She and her team will evaluate tomato breeding lines and help transfer insect and disease-resistant traits into the crops. Such research is beneficial to the growing number of small farm operators in the Mountain State.
“The number of vegetable farms in West Virginia has almost doubled in the last six years,” says Liedl. “Even with this increase in agriculture, though, it is hard for small farms to remain competitive using traditional crop production and marketing.”
Finding alternative approaches to growing crops or new varieties not currently grown on a large-scale commercial basis in the United States can provide a greater return on small-farm investment, compared to traditional products and practices, says Liedl.
Liedl and Hass are both excited to be one of the early academic adopters of the Technology Park facility. While the Kanawha Valley Community & Technical College will begin offering classes at the site this fall, WVSU is the first university to have an on-site presence, one that officials hope only continues to expand.
“There’s so much potential for more growth here,” says Dr. Robert Barney, associate dean and associate director of AERS. “My vision is for this to be the WVSU wing of the Technology Park.”
Hass and Liedl are hoping to explore collaborative opportunities with other entities on site. “This is a great opportunity for our students to observe firsthand research being done by the other organizations using these labs,” says Liedl, “and perhaps even explore internship opportunities with some of them.”
Providing solid opportunities for WVSU students to participate in landmark research is a primary focus for WVSU’s new president, Dr. Brian O. Hemphill. “Expanding the campus community into the West Virginia Regional Technology Park creates unique research and practicum experiences for State students,” he said, “which makes our graduates even more qualified for careers in the competitive fields of agricultural science and technology.”
WVSU is planning to occupy additional lab and office space in the coming months as administrators continue to strengthen the university’s standing as a premier research institution in West Virginia.