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History

The college established a field laboratory at Arendtsville in 1918 and appointed a plant pathologist and an entomologist to work on fruit problems in the region. Closed temporarily as an economic measure in 1936, the laboratory was reopened in 1937 because of the recognition that certain kinds of research could best be conducted in this fruit-producing region. Land and buildings purchased in Arendtsville were remodeled into offices and laboratories, and a greenhouse was added for studies of virus diseases. Three faculty members conducted the center's research programs.

Because of the increased need for fruit research into new cultural practices, pesticides, and virus diseases, the College of Agriculture purchased additional farmland at Biglerville in 1956 and added a plant virologist to its faculty in 1965. A grant from the Musselman Foundation, along with funds from state and federal sources, made possible the construction of new laboratory, office, greenhouse, and service facilities at Biglerville in 1971. The Musselman Building for Agricultural Research and Education significantly expanded programs and services available to the statewide fruit industry. To support much-needed research in postharvest physiology, a new state-of-the-art, computerized, controlled-atmosphere storage facility was built in 1989. Space needed for fruit handling, observations, and storage is provided by this 86 foot by 60 foot metal building. Today, independent studies in entomology, plant pathology/nematology, pomology and postharvest physiology are conducted in orchards, laboratories, and buildings with specialized facilities and equipment, including:

  • growth chambers for plant pathogen and insect investigations
  • an insectary for raising and studying predatory mites and insects
  • an elutriator and other equipment for plant-parasitic nematode extraction and identification
  • precision spray applicators
  • state-of-the-art pesticide storage and surplus pesticide mixture disposal
  • three Bally®‚ prefabricated cold rooms equipped with steel barrels serving as individual storage chambers
  • Oxystat 2®‚ Model 930 made by David Bishop Instruments, Sussex, England, to analyze and control up to 62 storage atmospheres

Today, the research and extension facilities and orchards are effectively utilized by scientists in five permanent and two fixed-term positions assigned to the Departments of Entomology, Horticulture, and Plant Pathology. Permanent personnel support for the center consists of seven technical service positions, two secretaries (1.6 positions), and one custodian (50% appointment). Approximately 15 to 20 additional part-time persons are employed annually to support research and extension projects.

The center has an eighty-year history of developing scientific information for the benefit of the fruit industry throughout Pennsylvania, including improved methods of fruit production, better pest and disease control programs, and improved fruit storage methods.