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REEU Programs Provide Hands‐On Horticulture Science Opportunities

Charles Fontanier, Casey Hentges, Lynn Brandenberger, Bruce Dunn, Niels Maness, Shelley Mitchell, Justin Moss, Lu Zhang
Crop science 2019 v.59 no.6 pp. 2357-2364
Cynodon, Lactuca sativa, USDA, agricultural sciences, bitterness, drought tolerance, equipment, fertilizers, hydroponics, industry, landscaping, lettuce, research methods, vegetable yield, Oklahoma
Horticulture programs seek to increase enrollment by emphasizing the scientific aspects of this discipline, thereby overcoming misperceptions about the degree. This effort is critical to reach an emerging urban and minority audience who might otherwise be unaware of agriculture‐related career opportunities. Research and Extension Experiences for Undergraduates (REEU) programs provide hands‐on opportunities to connect undergraduates to various aspects related to food and agricultural science. Using funding provided by the USDA, the Oklahoma State University (OSU) Horticulture and Landscape Architecture Department has established a horticulture sciences REEU program. Departmental faculty worked with two classes of 10 undergraduates in 2018 and 2019, involving them in both field and laboratory horticulture research. Programs like an REEU are adaptable to the expertise of the faculty. At OSU, individual participant research has included identifying bitterness compounds in lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.), comparing vegetable yield using different mulches, evaluating fertilizer and lighting effects in hydroponics, and evaluating drought‐resistant bermudagrasses (Cynodon spp.). The REEU program provides exposure to research methodology, equipment, and presentations. In some cases, it opens a door to a new university setting, establishes relationships in the industry, and provides opportunities to attend professional conferences. The REEU program should be considered by departments wanting to increase their exposure to new students, faculty looking to provide more opportunities to their advisees, and eager undergraduates wanting to make knowledgeable career choices.