Not just Cotton and College Football
Songs have been written about it, bands have been named after it, and baseball legend Hammerin’ Hank Aaron (rest in peace) was born there. Admitted to the United States in 1819, Alabama is the 22nd state and the next stop on our national tour of America’s Land-Grant University (LGU) system.
In 2019, Alabama’s agricultural economy generated $5.23 billion in receipts, according to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). Livestock and animal-related products make up about $4 billion of that total, with broilers, cattle, and eggs ranking #’s 1, 2, and 3 respectively. But following right behind egg production lies cotton, valued at $327 million in 2019 which is 5.6 percent of the total value of cotton grown in the U.S. and ranking fifth, by volume, of the 17 states that reported cotton production in 2020, with 735,000 bales at 480 lbs each.
Right after cotton comes field corn ($171M, #6), peanuts ($109M, #7), and soybeans ($101M, #8). Wheat is Alabama’s 12th most valuable commodity at $33 million.
Alabama is home to three LGUs, including two 1890 Institutions–Alabama A&M University in Huntsville and Tuskegee University–and Auburn University, which was founded in 1859 as a private school. Auburn University’s legal control was transferred to the State in 1872. All three institutions support the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service and Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station (AAES). The AAES conducts research at 13 facilities across the state. Breeding research for soybean, cotton, and forage breeding is headquartered at the E.V. Smith Research Station while some horticultural breeding work is done at the Brewton Agricultural Research Unit.
Beyond plant breeding and variety development research, the AAES has a robust variety evaluation program utilizing most of the research facilities in the state as well as on-farm partners. Commodities that undergo annual testing by AAES include several of the usual suspects and several other more niche row crops. On their website you will find trial data for corn, cotton, soybeans, peanuts, grain sorghum, wheat, barley, oats, triticale, small grain forages, and ryegrass. While variety testing has surely been a part of LGU research and extension activities from the beginning, the AAES has several variety trial reports available online that date back to the 1800s. Simply put, Alabama’s trial data is some of the most historic–and organized–that we’ve seen to date.