Five Things You Didn’t Know about the Plateau AgResearch and Education Center

The Plateau AgResearch and Education Center in Crossville is a site for beef, field crop, and fruit and vegetable research. Its staff of thirteen manages the 2,100-acre facility and supports UTIA faculty in dozens of research trials annually. Here’s a look at some interesting facts about the Center.

  1. It’s an official site for monitoring climate change. The Center is home to a climate monitoring station that’s part of the U.S. Climate Reference Network–-the only one of its kind in Tennessee. Developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the network’s goal is to provide long-term observations for the detection of climate change. Instrumentation at the Center measures pertinent weather data and transmits it to the NOAA/Command and Data Acquisition Facility once every hour. The Center also manages a manual-read weather station that has been recorded by employees each morning since 1944.

  2. The UT Gardens, Crossville, began with just one flowerbed. In 2005 the Cumberland County Master Gardeners planted their first ornamental plot at the Center. It measured approximately 900 square feet. Ten years later, that bed has grown to more than two acres of ornamental plantings and hardscapes and is part of Tennessee’s official botanical garden system. The site, which is also known as the Plateau Discovery Gardens, hosts more than thirty gardening classes and workshops annually, including the Fall Gardeners Festival, held the last Tuesday in August. Center Director Walt Hitch attributes this exponential growth to the unwavering dedication of local master gardeners and other community volunteers.

  3. They have their very own KinderGarden. The most recent addition to the Gardens is an outdoor classroom and play area for children, designed to enhance cognition, social skills, and literacy. The KinderGarden was created for kids ages three to seven years and is one of only three children’s gardens in Tennessee. There are nine areas for children to explore, including a labyrinth, a potting and digging station, a sensory station, and an adventure fort. The KinderGarden and the rest of the UT Gardens, Crossville, are open daily to visitors during daylight hours. View more here.

  4. The Center's research could reduce E. coli contamination. UTIA faculty and staff are evaluating methods to decrease fruit and vegetable contamination from harmful bacteria like E. coli or Salmonella during irrigation. The team is investigating in-line water treatment using ultraviolet light, chlorine dioxide, and peroxyacetic acid. While these approaches have been previously used to treat wastewaters, the Center's study is novel because of the short time period to treat the water while it is in the line before being applied to the crop. This is the second year of the study, and team members say the treatment strategies look promising.

  5. They really know their cattle! Close to 300-head of Angus cattle are housed at the Center.* It also houses the region’s only GrowSafe individual intake feeding system. Each animal is fitted with an EID ear tag that allows the system to record how much and when she ate. Since feeding is a large part of livestock production costs, having accurate intake data from cattle fed in production environments should prove valuable to cattle producers. (See video.) Another research tool is the SmartBow Real-Time Continuous Location System, which lets researchers monitor cattle behavior and activity levels at a distance, as opposed to intruding into the herd’s environment (which can skew results). The Smartbow RTLS helps researchers more accurately determine the effects of illness, management, or treatment on cattle behavior. Information on cattle research is presented at the Steak and Potatoes Field Day held on the first Tuesday of each August.

*What’s next at the Center? The annual fall cattle sale is scheduled for Friday, November 20. The sale will feature bred cows from the center’s herd.