The J. Phil Campbell Sr. Natural Resource Conservation Center in Watkinsville has been in operation as a USDA-ARS research station since 1937, with the mission "to develop and transfer environmentally sustainable and profitable agricultural systems to land owners and managers in order to protect the natural resource base, build accord with non-agricultural sectors, and support healthy rural economies." In response to Federal budget cuts, the facility was closed by USDA as part of the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2012. Since August 2012, it is being operated by the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) as a Research and Education Center (REC) under a five-year revocable permit from USDA.
The JPC-REC has a long legacy of research on grazing land and cattle herd management, soil protection and carbon sequestration, water quality and conservation, animal and cropping systems, and integrated watershed research, among others. The CAES is committed to continuing and expanding this research legacy. In addition, the facility is ideally suited for teaching, extension, and demonstration activities, such as the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Training Program. Similar to other Research and Education Centers in the CAES, the JPC-REC is being operated as a college-wide facility, with the superintendent reporting directly to the Office of the Associate Dean for Research at the Athens campus.
The JPC-REC encompasses 1070 acres, about 150 of which are currently suitable for arable crops. The land is divided among four units as follows: North Unit (315 acres), East Unit with station headquarters (254 acres), West Unit (249 acres), and South Unit (252 acres).
The JPC-REC houses some unique research infrastructure, including:
- Field-scale cropped and grazed watersheds for integrated watershed research.
- Set of 14 grazed micro-watersheds at Dawson field.
- Set of 12 water quality plots (30 m × 10 m) to monitor leachate and surface runoff.
- Set of 18 contiguous 1.8-acre fenced paddocks for replicated research on annual grazing systems.
- Set of 48 paired rainfall simulation (runoff) plots, each 0.75 × 2 m in size, surrounded by galvanized steel borders and equipped with stainless steel flumes.
- Two fields, 2.3 and 1.3 acres in size, that are currently in transition to organic crop production.
PI: Eric Elsner | CO-PI: Paul A. Schroeder | CO-PI: John Dowd