The USDA Research Center at the Maricopa Agricultural Center is hosting Farm Science Day on Feb. 27. Photo by Adam Wolfe

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Arid-Land Agricultural Research Center will host “Farm Science Day” at their location on the Maricopa Agricultural Center Farm on Feb. 27 as part of the Arizona SciTech Festival.

The USDA Center, which researches desert plants, insects and water conservation, will host events ranging from research presentations to cricket spitting. The event is meant to educate Maricopa residents on what the center does, as well as provide a fun afternoon for local families.

“’Farm Science Day’ is an opportunity for the local community to learn about the research we are doing at this research center and what the university (of Arizona) is involved with and how that relates to agriculture,” USDA Arid-Land Agricultural Research Center Director Steve Naranjo said.

The center uses state-of-the-art technology to monitor how plants grow in the desert, and which species has the best chance of thriving in Arizona’s harsh environment. The center also looks into non-pesticidal options to avoid massive crop losses, as well as finding new ways to use reclaimed water.

“It’s like ‘Star Trek’ come to life,” John Dyer, research leader of the Plant Physiology and Genetics Unit, said. “We are utilizing sensors to monitor plants so we can test their temperature, growth, color and shape without having to uproot and dissect them. There are only two facilities in the world with a gantry system for doing this, and ours is about five times as large [as the other].”

Steve Naranjo
Steve Naranjo

The Arid-Land Agricultural Research Center is also on the frontline of research on the guayule (why-you-lee) plant. The plant creates a natural rubber that has a plethora of potential uses. Most notably, the natural rubber can be used similarly to latex, but it lacks the protein that many people are allergic to.

The “Farm Science Day” will give Maricopa residents the opportunity to learn about all the research going on at the Arid-Land Agricultural Research Center.

“We’ll have lots of science related events to learn about the kind of research we do here related to insects, plants and water conservation,” Naranjo said.

The event will take place on Saturday, Feb. 27 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Arid-Land Agricultural Research Center at 21881 N. Cardon Lane, off Smith-Enke Road on the MAC Farm, in Maricopa.

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