About the Klamath Agricultural Experiment Station

A branch of the Oregon Agricultural Experiment Station
College of Agricultural Sciences
Oregon State University

Scientists at the Klamath Agricultural Experiment Station specialize in research on potatoes, cereals, forages, and potential alternate crops. In 1994, potatoes, cereals, forages, and sugarbeets generated farm gate sales of $21, $11, $18, and $6 million, respectively, in Klamath County. More recent estimates for 2000 include $8, $9, $26 and $2 million in farm gate sales for potatoes, cereals, forages, and sugarbeets respectively. Lower prices for potato and cereal crops account for most of the decline in revenues from 1994 to 2000. The sugarbeet acreage was reduced by 50% by frost damage in 2000, and the crop was discontinued in the region in 2001 due to closure of processing facilities in California.  Research in forages contributes indirectly to county livestock sales of $55 to $60 million. Agricultural lands constitute over 10% of the county's tax base. Agriculture and related businesses employ over 7% of the work force in a county with over 63,000 residents. Direct income from agriculture accounts for a very significant portion of the Klamath County economy.
The Klamath Station is located 3 miles south of Klamath Falls and 20 miles north of the California border on 86 acres of mineral soil. The land and buildings are owned by Klamath County and are leased to Oregon State University at no cost. Visitors are welcome at the Station, which can be reached by following Washburn Way south from Klamath Falls. 
Research programs began in 1939 when the Oregon Legislative Assembly appropriated funds to study the control of root-knot nematodes in potatoes grown in the Klamath Basin. That same year, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation leased 86 acres of saline and saline-sodic soils to Oregon State College. In 1944, the Klamath County Court provided additional funds to support research on a wider range of soils and crops. Also, Tulana Farms deeded 80 acres of reclaimed lake bed soil, high in organic matter, to Klamath County to be used for research by the Oregon Agricultural Experiment Station. Klamath County continues to provide a significant share of the Station's funding.  
Facilities at the Klamath Agricultural Experiment Station include a combination office-laboratory, modern potato storage, a machine shop-sample grading complex, potato quality laboratory, forage building, several storage buildings, and two residences. Extensive facility upgrading from 1988 to 1992, with major funding provided by Klamath County, has enhanced the appearance, utility, and efficiency of facilities to meet the needs of future research programs. The Station has specialized equipment for field plot research and laboratory analytical procedures, and modern computer capabilities. Visitors can see extensive potato, cereal, and forage crops as well as alternate crops under investigation. At key growth stages, marked visual differences are interesting to observe.  
Research at the Klamath Experiment Station emphasizes the selection of adapted cultivars, cultural management practices specifically adapted for superior cultivars, pest control alternatives, and crop quality characteristics important for specific markets for the region's major crops. Studies continue to explore new strategies for the control of nematodes and related diseases in potatoes. The loss of effective chemical controls to the regulatory process increases the urgency of new solutions to old problems. New potato varieties are replacing the long dominant Russet Burbank variety. Commercial producers are exploring specialty markets with red-skinned, yellow-fleshed, and other unique potato varieties. Contracts for chipping potatoes are increasing while acreage of fresh market russet varieties is declining in importance. New cultivars require variety-specific management practices to achieve optimum yields and quality. Crop management studies on potatoes focus on plant nutrient requirements, plant population response, seed management, and disease and pest control alternatives. Commercial growers throughout the Pacific Northwest are using research findings.  The Station cooperates with other branch stations, OSU campus-based departments, and sister institutions in statewide and regional potato variety development programs. A red-skinned variety-screening program established at the Klamath Experiment Station in 1988, evaluated breeding lines from North Dakota, Colorado, and Idaho potato breeding programs. This program, unique in the northwest, produced two varieties released in 2001 and at least one more advanced selection likely to be released in 2003. 
Another major research thrust is directed toward improved spring cereal production. The Station is the site for initial evaluation of spring barley lines developed by the OSU barley-breeding program. Promising wheat, barley, oat, and triticale varieties developed by OSU and other northwest cereal breeding programs are evaluated annually in statewide and regional trials. Crop management studies include plant nutrition as it affects quality for specific market uses, seeding rates, and disease and pest control. Recent studies have evaluated cereals for cover crops and for hay production. 
Forage crop research is directed toward species and variety adaptation and grazing management to enhance livestock utilization under seasonal imbalances in production. Mineral deficiencies were identified and supplements formulated to correct serious copper and selenium deficiencies in cattle grazing on nutrient-deficient soils. Recent studies focus on modeling of alfalfa growth as a tool for improved cutting management, seedling establishment for hay and pasture species, mixed seeding of alfalfa and grass species, and grass species and varieties for production of other hay for specialty markets. Studies have been initiated to evaluate alfalfa varieties and several grass species and varieties for production under limited irrigation regimes.
Sugarbeets were introduced to the Klamath Basin on a commercial scale in 1990. The Station implemented research efforts to identify adapted cultivars, determine crop response to planting date in a short-season, frost susceptible area, and determine plant nutrition requirements under local conditions. Research on this crop was terminated in 2000 when the processing facility for local crops was scheduled for closure. 
Among the expectations for faculty and staff serving at Branch Experiment Stations is one broadly defined as service. This can take many forms. Typical examples include serving in organizations that enhance the community, providing educational opportunities for local citizens of all age groups, providing leadership training for youth, and serving in leadership roles such as on school boards or as an advisor to elected officials. Community involvement has become an especially important component of KES contributions to the region.  The Klamath Basin has become a poster child for issues related to environmental stewardship, endangered species, private property rights, western water law, tribal trust issues, and sustainability of natural resource base d industries. The region includes three National Forests (Winema, Fremont, and Klamath), five National Wildlife Refuges, Oregon's only National Park (Crater Lake), homelands for Native American tribes at both ends of the Klamath Watershed, one of the oldest Bureau of Reclamation Irrigation Projects, and an un-adjudicated irrigation system that includes the Reclamation Project, but also large additional acreages outside of project boundaries. Within two wildlife refuges, about 26,000 acres of 'leaselands' have been dedicated to production of agricultural crops, with a portion of the production used for feed for resident and migrating waterfowl in the Pacific Flyway.
Concerns over the compatibility of agriculture and wildlife habitat have become the focus of efforts to restrict agricultural production and use of agricultural chemicals within refuge boundaries. KES faculty participated in a process managed by USFWS to develop Integrated Pest Management plans for leaselands.
The Federal listing of two sucker species in the Upper Klamath Basin as endangered in 1988, and coho salmon as threatened in the Lower Klamath River in 1998, and the designation of critical habitat and management of the region's hydrology to meet perceived needs of these species, has severely affected water allocation for irrigated agriculture. Numerous agency documents developed to provide guidance for managing the irrigation project and leaselands have been circulated for public comment. KES faculty have participated in the public comment process on numerous occasions. Most recently, written and oral presentations of objective information were made to the National Academy of Science National Research Council Review Team for USFWS and NMFS Biological Opinions that resulted in denial of irrigation water to the Klamath Reclamation Project in 2001. A preliminary report from the NRC team vindicated the position we have taken that scientific justification for the allocation of substantially greater water supplies to endangered and threatened species at the expense of irrigation supplies did not exist.
Attempts to meet provisions of the Federal Clean Water Act have resulted in the establishment of two processes in Oregon aimed at reducing pollutants in surface waters of the state. The Oregon Department of Agriculture is responsible for establishing Agricultural Water Quality Area Management Plans. KES Faculty have served on Technical Advisory Committees for two sub-watersheds in the Upper Klamath Basin. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has been charged with the responsibility for establishment of Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) targets for two sub-watersheds in the Upper Klamath Basin. KES faculty have served on one of the Technical Advisory Committees for this process. Membership on these committees is determined by appointment by the Director of state agencies responsible for the plans.
Other examples of service provided by KES faculty include maintenance of a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NOAA official weather stat ion for Klamath Falls, serving as a site for one Bureau of Reclamation Agricultural Meteorological (AgriMet) weather station and as the collator for monthly data summaries for three additional AgriMet stations in the region. KES faculty frequently host school groups, Chamber of Commerce Leadership Training classes, and other community groups for informational presentations on issues related to agriculture and natural resource management in the region.
Faculty time spent on activities described above complements the primary KES mission of conducting applied research to benefit local and regional agriculture. Agriculture in general, and agriculture in the Klamath Basin in particular, is under increasing pressure from environmental issues, Federal and State Agency policies, and special interest groups with goals of imposing regulations that threaten the industry's ability to maintain economic viability. KES faculty will continue service to the community towards the constructive resolution of these issues as opportunities arise.
An advisory committee of experienced local growers help Station staff identify research needs, support the work in progress, and take a leading role in the application of new information in their own operations. Local extension agents also work closely with Station scientists to help identify and prioritize research needs and opportunities to serve Klamath County agriculture. Extension agents help distribute new information and demonstrate its application where it is needed. Also cooperating and assisting are scientists from OSU and the University of California in Tulelake. This brings together the most qualified researchers available to address each need. Klamath County government continues to be an active partner. 
"I'm (Dr.) Ken Rykbost. I'm currently superintendent of the Klamath Experiment Station, part of Oregon State University agricultural experiment station system, and I hold a title of  Professor in Department of Crop and Soil Science at Oregon State University.

I had a Bachelor's and a Master's degree from Cornell University in agronomy, which is  the study of crops and soils, and I completed a Ph.D. in Department of Soil Science at Oregon State University in 1973, with a minor in civil engineering, particularly in relation to the hydrology and water quality issues, and those kinds of things.

I've been involved for the last 30 years with agronomic research in the general area of potato production, but I've also been somewhat involved with water issues from several standpoints.  I was involved with a Long Island, New York, groundwater study that was looking at potential sources of nitrate contamination in the groundwater.  I've been involved with irrigation management practices, water conservation through irrigation systems.  And most recently I've at least partially involved some of my time in the study of water quality issues in upper Klamath Lake, and hydrology issues in the Klamath watershed.  So I have some background and somewhat expertise in the issues of water."


Contact: Dr. Kenneth Rykbost: kenneth.rykbost@oregonstate.edu