By Cary Rivard, Fruit and Vegetable Extension Specialist and Center Director
Well the research station certainly has been busy this fall. We always miss the summer student workers and interns this time of year. Not only because of the energy and enthusiasm that they bring, but also because they end up leaving a bunch of old folks with a lot of work to do!
As a lot of people know by now, this year marks the end of the Prairie Star Flower program at OHREC. I’ve been asked all summer why this has happened and what it means for the future of the research station. Clearly, the Prairie Star program was a big part of the work that was being done at OHREC and I’m still trying to imagine what the center will look like next year (literally and figuratively) without it. There are several reasons why the program won’t be happening next year and although this decision certainly wasn’t mine, I think it’s my job to communicate why this happened.
Both at Federal and State levels, the concept of “formula funds” has completely dissolved. Whereas both the department and individual researchers may have received annual funding to do their research 20 years ago, all research is now supported by competitive grants or other external sources. This is a new paradigm for the University and requires that faculty must be successful at seeking and securing grant funds in order to do their job. The other reality is that there are very few USDA grant programs that support ornamental horticulture. Prairie Star has never received a USDA grant (that I know of) and has historically been supported by a mix of industry funds as well as the department.
The Prairie Star program was extraordinarily successful due to a lot of great work by Dr. Alan Stevens up until his retirement in 2014. Unfortunately, however, the end of the Prairie Star program is a perfect example of “roadkill” in the changing landscape of our state and federal funding. As citizens of Kansas, you are certainly welcome to advocate for change with your local and state representatives. Supporting K-State = supporting Prairie Star. Supporting ornamental horticulture research = supporting Prairie Star. And supporting the Department of Horticulture and Natural Resources = supporting Prairie Star. In the meantime, plants will keep growing, flowers will keep blooming, and life will go on as it always has with or without Prairie Star. The information and recommendations generated by the program will certainly continue to be useful for those of us looking to plant flower varieties that thrive in the difficult growing environment known as Kansas.
Back to Fall 2017 Newsletter