Langdon REC

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History of the Landgon Research Extension Center

The Beginning

The LREC was created by action of the tenth Legislative Assembly of ND in 1907. Senator Henry McLean of Hannah, and Representatives Usher Burdick of Munich and Joseph Crawford of Langdon were members of the legislature when SB111 was passed and signed into law by then Governor John Burke. SB111 read in part: “There is hereby created and established an agricultural and grass experiment station not less than 160 acres to be located within two miles of the village of Hannah or the city of Langdon free of charge, by warranty deed, to the state of ND”.

Citizens of the Langdon area met with the provisions of the act and in 1908 purchased a quarter of land one mile east of Langdon (NW1/4 Sec. 19-161-59) from Menno Liebeler and presented it to the state. Work began immediately to construct a barn, residence and seed house. The barn and residence are still on the farm today.

"Creation of the Langdon Research Extension Center as Reported by the Cavalier County Republican"

1909-1925 Finding a Niche in Durum

In March 1909, Edward D. Stewart was appointed the first Director of the Langdon Experiment station and work began to identify opportunities for the region’s farmers. Durum came to ND from the grain growing areas of Russia. No distinction was made at that time between the durums and bread wheats. Wheat was wheat. The prominent durums (red durum and amber durum) and Marquis (most popular bread wheat) were grown together and sold as bread wheat.  

Ed Stewart was enthusiastic about the durums because they were a little less susceptible to rust in rust years than bread wheat and seemed to have a comparative advantage with the cooler temperatures and short growing season so typical of the region. Soon the Langdon experiment station became known as the “Durum Station”.

Eventually, millers delineated between the bread wheats and durum wheats and the hard kernel of the durums were identified as more advantageous for processing macaroni products rather than bread and offered a price premium. This boosted durum production and through years of development the region eventually became known as the “Durum Triangle”.

Louis Jorgenson was named Director in 1920 after the unexpected death of Ed Stewart as a result of Brain Fever. Under Mr. Jorgenson’s leadership, durum work continued until he was succeeded by Victor Sturlaugson in 1925.

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1925-1969 The Vic Sturlaugson Era, Developing the Durum Industry in ND

On September 25, 1925, Victor Sturlaugson a North Dakota Ag College graduate who had been employed at the Dickinson Experiment Station (a native of Pembina County)was named Director of the Langdon Experiment Station.  The history of the Langdon Experiment Station, the “Durum Triangle”, Vic Sturlaugson, his wife and nine children are all part of one story.               

With durum wheat established in the area, the attention of plant breeders was turned to improving the durums for rust resistance, stiffer and shorter straw, a better amber color, higher yield and higher milling quality. The USDA stationed Dr. Glenn Smith, NDAES plant breeder, at Langdon to work on durum breeding in cooperation with Vic Sturlaugson. From Dr. Smith’s work came four new durums including “Stewart”, named to honor Ed Stewart, the first Langdon Experiment Station Director and an early promoter of durum wheat. Stewart was widely planted in the region at that time.

Then in 1950 came 15b, a new virulent race of stem rust, and with it went the new advantages gained by the new durums including Stewart. All of the bread wheats suffered equally. With additional research, Khapli emmer, a foreign durum from Palestine, was crossed with durums Carleton and Stewart and was found to be resistant to 15b. From these plants came newer and better varieties such as Langdon, Ramsey, Yuma and Towner. These durum varieties were generally grown into the 1960’s.

In the entire durum breeding program, actual crossing of varieties and quality testing are done in the greenhouses and laboratories in Fargo, ND at the NDSU Main Station. The vitally important field testing of first generation experimental varieties has been centered at the LREC since the early years of the station. This durum breeding program continues today under the direction of the current NDSU durum breeder, Dr. Elias Elias.

The support of the durum breeding program by Vic Sturlaugson was officially recognized 10 years after his retirement. In 1979, the ND Agricultural Experiment Station named a new variety of durum called VIC to commemorate his lifetime commitment to the ND durum industry.

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1970-1981 Researching Alternative Crops

In mid 1969, Robert Nowatzki assumed the duties as Director of the Langdon Experiment Station. The dedicated work to further develop traditional regional crops such as the cereal grains, forages, grasses, legumes, and assorted horticultural plants including potatoes, tomatoes and flowers continued. This era began a development of change with the expansion of LREC crop research to include alternative crops adapted to our climate. There was a focus on oilseeds.

The early years of the 1970s saw a joint effort develop between the LREC, Minn-Dak Growers Association, R.T. French Company, Canada Department of Agriculture and the oilseeds breeder from the University of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. As well as providing opportunities for higher value crops for producers, this research offered rotational advantages in an established cereal grain growing region. This research saw the focus on a crop, rapeseed, that soon evolved into present day canola.         

Robert Nowatzki resigned the position as Director of the LREC in mid 1981 and was replaced by Robert Wagner who served as the fifth Director in the LREC’s then 82 year history.  He served a brief 11 month time period until being replaced by John Lukach in June 1982. John Lukach came to Langdon from the North Central Research Extension Center located in Minot, ND.

1982-2009 Canola and Disease Management

The cool and wet climate associated with the short growing season supported a promising niche crop in northeast ND that was a result of alternative crop research that began in the early 1970s at the LREC.  Research at Langdon in oilseeds brought the cool season crop canola to the forefront in northeast ND. A promising market and rotational advantages eventually influenced producers to adopt canola in their farming operations. Through this effort the LREC was soon known as the “canola station” within the ND Agricultural Experiment Station.

Synonymous with the new strain of rust (15b) that briefly devastated cereal grains production in the 1950’s, came the more deadly disease in the early 1990’s known as fusarium head blight (scab). Scab is a fungal disease caused by Fusarium Graminearum and was magnified in intensity by the prolonged wet humid periods from 1993 to the present. This disease was principally responsible for ending the region’s reputation as being the “durum triangle’ in ND. The LREC and the NDAES was posed with a huge challenge.

In 1993, under the direction of John Lukach, much of the cropping systems research at the LREC was re-directed to focus on finding solutions that minimized the effects of the scab disease on cereal grains. Initial discoveries at Langdon that provided potential solutions to minimize scab were shared with NDSU Plant Pathology experts in Fargo. This supported a team effort to broaden research that today provides producers cultural, rotational, varietal and chemical controls to minimize the effects of scab.

The resulting research at the LREC from the 1970s to today in canola production is prominently responsible for keeping many a producer on the land in northeast ND. Alternative crop research that shaped canola as a mainstay in cropping systems rotations afforded regional producers a profitable cash crop that was not affected by scab.

In addition, the not so distant past dominated by canola production bought producers time until LREC scientists in cooperation with Fargo scientists and breeders developed new varieties of HRSW and other cereal grains that resist scab. Further research also discovered cultural and chemical controls that further minimize the effects of scab. The impact is evident in that Cavalier County is today the number one producer of canola and HRSW in ND.

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Continuing to Support Rural Communities and Farm Families

In the past 30+ years, ND agriculture experienced trends that have negatively affected farm families and rural communities. Low farm prices, dramatic increases in input costs, diseases, and other factors supported a wave of outmigration from the rural areas. This forced one time thriving rural farm communities to cope with fewer farms leading to “ghost town syndrome”.

In the late 1990s, Langdon area community leaders and farmers began meeting  to brainstorm alternatives that would confront this trend and better position northeast ND farms and rural communities into the 21st century. The concept to better connect the region to the ND university system to support agriculturally based economic and community development was born. The LREC, through its connection to NDSU, was identified as a potential base of operations for this regional effort.

In July 2000, the LREC redirected its staffing to pursue this concept. John Lukach, Director since 1982, assumed the duties of LREC Superintendant and continued his role in agricultural research. A strong and growing research program continues today at the LREC. Randy Mehlhoff was then hired as the seventh LREC Director to implement this new concept.            

In 2001, the 57th Legislative Assembly authorized the construction of the Vic Sturlaugson Learning Center on the grounds of the LREC. Reminiscent of early support that saw the public purchase the first 160 acres in 1908, the people of the region again showed their support to the LREC. By 2002, the region’s people contributed $510,000 and the legislature provided $300,000 to make the facility a reality. The Vic Sturlaugson Learning Center has enhanced the overall research program at the LREC while instituting an active ag based economic and community development program.

VSLC

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