The Coastal Plain Branch Experiment Station, a 1,172-acre station in Newton County, supports an integrated research and education program directed at adults, children, and natural-resource professionals. It will include five demonstration areas: agriculture, forestry, wildlife management, backyard habitat, and a nature trail and pond. There is a small beef-cattle herd and soybeans are grown as part of the station's agricultural research.
Development of new infrastructure at the station is completed as funding becomes available. A strong network of federal, state, and local natural-resource agency partners provided funding, technical assistance, and in-kind contributions toward the station's continuing development. The demonstration area is a continuing project of the university's Natural Resource Enterprises program.
Three of the five demonstration areas have been completed, including the backyard habitat, the nature trail and lake, and an 80-acre mixed pine and hardwood timber stand. Educational signs in each area explain how to manage farm ponds, design nature trails, and install a wildlife-friendly landscape. The areas also serve as outdoor classrooms for youth activities.
Since 2008, Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station and Extension personnel, with cooperation from allied organizations, have provided educational programs at the station for 750 students and hundreds of landowners and professionals. Seven professional workshops, training programs, and short courses have been held at the station. Most recently, the station hosted a prescribed-burn workshop for landowners.
The forestry demonstration area focuses on research specifically for loblolly pine varietal performance and the potential of growing switchgrass within traditional pine stands. Other forestry research at the station includes a hardwood mixing study that examines the performance of cherry bark oak, willow oak, and swamp chestnut oak when mixed with river birch, sweetgum, and eastern cottonwood. These projects are conducted under the direction of Dr. Randy Rousseau, a professor in the MSU Forest and Wildlife Research Center.
When Dr. Brett Rushing joined the team last year, the station's agricultural research continued to expand. Rushing studies the use of native grasses for forage and conservation purposes, as well as herbaceous biomass crop production.