Located in Perry County, Mississippi, the Beaumont Horticultural Unit is one of the smallest of the 16 statewide locations that encompass the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station. Although small, research at the unit is packed with vegetable and urban horticulture designed to serve the needs of growers in local and regional markets.
The 20-acre property was purchased and deeded to MAFES in 1970 by Perry County.
The unit focuses on small farm production. Vegetable research for school, community, and home gardeners is conducted in raised beds, high tunnels, and greenhouses. A new set of raised beds has been installed for research on cut flower production to meet the needs of local growers.
Scientists at the unit conduct variety trials on various vegetable crops to help growers identify the best varieties for the coastal region. Herbicide trials and different production practices are studied to help local growers be more efficient in their endeavors.
Commercial vegetable research is conducted in fields with plasticulture. This practice includes drip irrigation and plastic mulch film or sheeting, a technique frequently used by commercial growers to suppress weeds and conserve water.
When the station first began, a vineyard included over 40 muscadine grape varieties. Now the vineyard includes table grapes in addition to muscadines. Table grape varieties have traditionally not performed well in the South so researchers hope to find the best varieties and production methods for home gardeners and commercial enterprises in the region. Half of the vineyard has been removed to make way for blueberry production, an upcoming endeavor of the unit.
Three years ago, staff converted the front yard of the station into an edible landscape. Each plant is labeled so visitors can see the varieties and observe growing conditions while sampling the fruit.
According to Dr. Christine Coker, associate extension and research professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences and director of the unit, "The Beaumont Horticultural Unit is a hidden jewel for horticulture growers and home gardeners."
Visitors are always welcome to visit and sample from the edible landscape, see what is growing in the high tunnels and greenhouses, and learn about horticulture research, Coker added.
The station hosts field days and is also available for group tours. To set up a tour, contact Coker at 228.546.1013.
The Beaumont Horticultural Unit is located at 478 Hwy 15, Beaumont, MS 39423. For more information, visit mafes.msstate.edu/branches/coastal.asp?location=Beaumont.