Excellence is the expectation of the School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB), as the school’s motto goes. Overall, UAPB plays a major role in sustaining and innovating Arkansas’s agriculture industry. The land grant institution, established in 1890, provides cutting-edge research, teaching, outreach and service programs, responding to social and economic needs of the state.
Planting the Seeds of Success
Dr. Edmund Buckner, interim dean of UAPB’s School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences, points to the school’s work with sweet potato farmers as an example. Buckner says availability of virus- indexed sweet potato planting materials is a major factor for growth of the state’s sweet potato industry.
“To address the growers’ needs, UAPB established the Sweetpotato Foundation Seed Program in 2009,” Buckner says. “The program has since supplied several thousand virus-indexed slips at a subsidized rate to farmers in Arkansas to enhance sweet potato production. The program has also been recognized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as one of the six Sweet Potato Clean Plant Centers in the nation.”
In addition to the Sweetpotato Foundation Seed Program, UAPB’s Outreach and Technology Transfer Unit consists of the Small Farm Program, Cooperative Extension Horticulture and Animal Science Programs, the Agriculture Demonstration and Outreach Center near Marianna, and the Pearlie S. Reed/Robert L. Cole Small Farm Outreach Wetlands and Water Management Center near Lonoke. The university sponsors workshops, tours, meetings and farm visits to bring university research results to Arkansas farmers.
Big Fish in a Small Pond
The university’s Aquaculture/Fisheries Center of Excellence is the only comprehensive aquaculture program within the University of Arkansas System. Through research, Extension services, workforce development and talent transfer, the center is a valuable support to the state’s $167 million aquaculture industry.
“As an Aquaculture/Fisheries Center of Excellence, we have statewide responsibility to address research and extension needs of our stakeholders, such as the aquaculture industry and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, that we identify through meetings and other communications with these groups.
We conduct both basic and applied research that addresses issues facing the aquaculture industry, including fish health, nutrition and feeding, water quality, reproductive physiology, systems design, economics, and general fish production issues,” says Dr. Rebecca Lochmann, interim chair of UAPB’s Department of Aquaculture and Fisheries.
In particular, the university’s bait fish certification lab in Lonoke allows Arkansas fish producers to have their fish inspected and officially certified free of specific pathogens according to Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service standards.
“Arkansas is the top producer of cultured bait fish in the United States, and our fish are shipped to many other states across the country. However, every state has restrictions on shipments of live fish – they must be certified free of specific disease-causing organisms before the state will accept shipments of fish from Arkansas. The bait fish certification lab is critical to maintaining the high-quality reputation and competitive status of the Arkansas bait fish industry,” Lochmann says.
Mark Stoll, who manages the Bait and Ornamental Certification Program, says the program keeps a disease outbreak from “shutting down the entire industry.”
“This program was started to avoid that. Take the Midwest, for example. A lot of their stock is wild caught bait that they catch out of the Great Lakes and ship around. They had a disease outbreak, and it shut the fish movement down. The producers in Arkansas didn’t want that to happen here, so they asked (UAPB) to start this program,” Stoll says.
A Vision For Growth
UAPB is also influential in the area of workforce development. The university offers bachelor’s degrees in agriculture, regulatory science, and aquaculture and fisheries; master’s degree programs in agricultural regulations and aquaculture and fisheries; as well as a doctoral program in aquaculture/fisheries – the only program of its kind in the state. Currently, the school is in the process of developing a new strategic plan to address future needs of the aquaculture and natural fisheries industries at the state, national and international levels.