OLR Research Report

December 18, 2012




By: Janet L. Kaminski Leduc, Senior Legislative Attorney

You asked a series of questions about the University of Connecticut Plant Science Research and Education Facility (i.e., the UConn Research Farm or facility). Professor Richard McAvoy, Head of UConn's Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, has provided answers to your questions. The questions and answers follow.

Provide a brief description of the UConn Research Farm.

The UConn Research Farm is located on Route 195, approximately two miles south of UConn's campus in Storrs, Connecticut. The Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture (PSLA), within the College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences, manages the farm. The facility has supported the teaching, research, and public outreach responsibilities for PSLA for more than 95 years and is the sole field research site for all plant-related research in the college.

The 153-acre facility is partially wooded with slightly less than 39 acres under active cultivation. The facility also includes two teaching classrooms; the Hicks-Burr teaching nursery for woody ornamental crops; three greenhouses; and several barns and buildings used for program support, staff, equipment maintenance, and storage. The university has invested in the necessary physical support infrastructure, including irrigation systems, access roads, deer exclusion fencing, and buildings.

The facility's teaching, research, and outreach activities are conducted in the areas of ecology, entomology, florticulture, forages, soils, sustainable agriculture, vegetables, weed ecology and control, turfgrass and athletic field management, and woody and herbaceous ornamental crops. Courses taught at the facility allow students to gain hands-on practical experience and discipline-specific skills used in commercial trade.

In a typical year, the facility hosts a number of educational events that address the needs of both the general public and agricultural commodity groups (e.g., Connecticut Master Gardeners, Connecticut Nursery and Landscape industry).

What type of research is conducted at the facility?

Research objectives vary widely with grant funding, investigator interests, and year. Most projects relate to integrated pest management; horticultural crops; golf course and athletic field management; genetics; plant ecology, such as invasive species management; and vegetable trials, including the annual All-American selection trials. Most projects involve multi-year studies, so the specific activities during any one year will vary.

Is the research funded by private or public sources?

Grants from public agencies, private foundations, and private businesses support the facility's research, with the total value of research generally exceeding $2 million. Most of the research support comes from federal sources.

What are the specific sources of funding and how much does each source provide in funding?

See Attachment A.

What is the aggregate amount of private research funding for projects at the facility? What percentage of the total value of research projects conducted is this?

Privately supported field research for 2011 to 2012 totaled about $245,000, or about 7.8% of all funded research during this period, which was about $3,139,000. The facility also receives in-kind support in the form of donated equipment and cash donations.

Are agreements entered into with private sources subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)?

Generally, agreements between UConn and private parties are public records governed by FOIA and subject to disclosure. Under FOIA, certain categories of records are exempt from disclosure (e.g., trade secrets). Whether a particular agreement comes within an exemption would be determined on a case-by-case basis.

What fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides are used at the facility? Does UConn keep records of all applications?

As required by law, UConn maintains pesticide application records. The facility's farm manager compiles pesticide application records annually for public disclosure. (The most recent list was compiled in Spring 2012, and covers applications made during the 2011 season.) Fertilizer usage is based on standard crop management practices or as required to meet the objectives of the research study.

See Attachments B and C for pesticide applications made in 2010 and 2011.

Additionally, pesticide applications made to assess turfgrass disease control in research trials can be found at http://www.turf.uconn.edu/reports.shtml.

See Attachment D for information on all proprietary material used in efficacy trials from 2009 to 2011.

Are all of the fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides used fully approved for public use by the federal and state government agencies responsible for permitting the use of such material?

All non-proprietary material used at the facility are labeled for public use, such as use on residential lawns, ornamental plants, or crop plants. In most cases, the active ingredient applied is available for general use by homeowners and can be purchased at any garden supply store. The purchase and application of some material require a private or commercial applicator license.

Of the proprietary compounds used, all material is subject to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) health, safety, and environmental impact testing and approval process before the facility can conduct field testing on target crops. Applications are made at the facility with oversight by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection's licensed Demonstration and Research Supervisory applicators.

Most of the proprietary material applied at the facility is already labeled for commercial use. The contracted research primarily investigates the use of existing products in proprietary trials to expand label recommendations of registered pesticides to other commodities.

If any material used at the facility is not fully approved for public use, are there other non-secure open air sites where similar materials are used?

As described above, all material used at the facility are fully approved for public use or used only with appropriate permitting from the U.S. EPA.

Does UConn perform similar research at other sites?

The answer is no. The UConn Research Farm is the only UConn field research and education site for plant science-related research.

Does UConn know if other state or private universities conduct similar research?

UConn has no direct knowledge of whether other universities conduct similar research, but considers it unlikely.