What do they do at the Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center?

From a distance, Penn State's Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center, along state Route 45 at Rock Springs, looks like picturesque farmland -- green pastures, plows and barns. But if you look closer, you'll learn that it's a hub for cutting-edge research and innovative education conducted by the College of Agricultural Sciences.

Research and education conducted at the center have the same goal -- better food and farming for the health of society and the environment. There are research studies on fruits, vegetables, grains, weeds, soil, insects, fish, water, farming techniques -- and that's just a tiny sampling of what happens there every day.

In addition to the center's Agronomy, Horticulture, Entomology and Plant Pathology research farms, other facilities at the site include the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Pasture Systems and Watershed Management Research Unit and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture's Samuel E. Hayes Jr. Livestock Evaluation Center.

The site also is home to a demonstration woodlot, consisting of more than 100 acres of forest and numerous types of trees. The Pasto Agricultural Museum boasts more than 3,000 rare and unusual farm and home implements that showcase agriculture's past.

Read more about some of the many projects:

What happens to the fruit and vegetables grown at the research center?

Most of the produce grown at the site is used for research. However, crop rotations not used in studies provide feed for university livestock, support programs such as the fall festival, and are donated to regional food pantries. Green material is used for compost or turned back into the soil.

Why is the center only open to authorized personnel?

Public access to all research farms, field plots, grass and gravel roadways, buildings, and forests is prohibited to protect the integrity of ongoing research and projects. Recreational use such as hiking, biking and dog walking is prohibited. Biosecurity is a primary concern as loss of research by accident or intentional vandalism is a risk that must be mitigated. Loss of research can mean delays of one or more growing seasons, compromising research timelines, delaying dissertation/graduation, and jeopardizing funding.

The scientists and staff at the Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center follow strict protocols to ensure the health and safety of people, beneficial insects and animals, and the environment.

What about access to Rothrock State Forest via the research center grounds?

The research farm cannot be used to access the Rothrock State Forest or adjacent public parks, nor is it available for public parking. For public entry points to Rothrock State Forest, visit the Rothrock website. To learn more about access to nearby recreational facilities, see Centre Region Parks and Recreation facilities.

Are people allowed to hunt in the center's forested area?

Hunting on the grounds is allowed to help manage deer populations and protect agricultural production research by special permit only. More information on rules and how to apply for a permit can be found online.

Are there opportunities for the public to access the research farms? 

Folks interested in learning about today's research and the agricultural innovations that have emerged from the 2,200-acre research center since its founding more than 50 years ago are encouraged to attend the annual Ag Progress Days exposition, which takes place in August. Free, daily bus tours will make stops at the Agronomy, Entomology, Horticulture and Plant Pathology research farms, among other sites.

Though Ag Progress Days is the largest event held at the site, several other important functions are open to the public throughout the year, including the PA Timber Show Products Equipment and Technology Exposition every other June and the Centre County Master Gardener plant sale in May.

The Pasto Agricultural Museum, which holds special events throughout the year and tours by appointment, connects our agricultural past with present-day practices and cutting-edge research in food and fiber systems, environmental issues, and natural resources.