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Cotton Branch field day... 75 years

MARIANNA, Ark. — The University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture's Cotton Branch Station held its first field day in 1929. The station will celebrate its history of research and extension service during a field day Aug. 20, said resident director Claude Kennedy.

The field day begins with registration at 8:30 a.m. Field tours begin at 9 a.m., 9:15 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. The tours will visit study areas on crop fertility, insect and disease control, irrigation timing, and recovery of precision-leveled land. Tours will also cover a variety trial and new breeding lines for southern peas.

Posters and exhibits will highlight summaries and photos of the station's past, present and future, Kennedy said. U.S. Rep. Marion Berry will speak about 11:45 a.m. about agricultural and Delta issues.

The field day will conclude with a lunch of barbecue and southern fried catfish.

The Arkansas Legislature appropriated funds in 1925 to establish Cotton Branch Station with 160 acres. A brick residence and office building were built the following year at a cost of about $7,000 and Lee County extension agent E.B. Whittaker was the first resident director. The station was up and running by 1928. Today, it is a unit of the Northeast Research and Extension Center at Keiser.

Research featured in the 1929 field day included mixed varieties of pecan trees, cotton variety tests and corn inter-cropped with soybeans, mung beans, wheat and crotaloria, Kennedy said. The tour also visited the first soybean variety test, in which the first Arkansas variety, Arksoy, was developed.

Cotton Branch began expanding its acreage in the 1940s through the 1960s, growing to 655 acres for research and extension projects. Two other Branch stations grew out of land that was originally part of Cotton Branch, Delta Branch Station in Crittenden County and Pine Tree Branch Station in St. Francis County.

In 1954, the Arkansas Soil Testing and Research Laboratory opened on the Cotton Branch Station. Today the lab operates as a separate unit and provides routine soil testing and fertilizer recommendations to farmers, homeowners, researchers and others.

"Cotton Branch Station has been a vital part of the Division of Agriculture's mission to generate, interpret and communicate information and technology for Arkansas agriculture and communities," Kennedy said. "New varieties of cotton and soybeans have come out of the research conducted here and at the Division's other research stations. The station is a source of information for farmers, industries and communities, and many young people have participated in 4-H and extension activities here."

He said the station continues today to support Division research and extension projects and a place for agriculture students to get hands-on experience in agricultural research.

"The continued research and development for cotton and other crops is economically vital to our state and nation," Kennedy said. "We're keeping these contributions and accomplishments in mind as we celebrate our 75 years of research and service."

Cotton Branch Station is located 3 miles south of Marianna on State Hwy. 1.

Fred Miller is science editor for the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station. e-mail:

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