The Maricopa Agricultural Center (MAC) is a 2,100 acre experimental farm located four miles east of Maricopa and five miles north of the Casa Grande/Maricopa Highway. It was acquired in January 1983 and consolidates activities formerly conducted at the Cotton Research Center in Phoenix and the Mesa Experimental Farm in Mesa. The Center is an integral and essential part of the research, extension and teaching resources of the College of Agriculture at the University of Arizona in Tucson.
At an elevation of 1175 feet the Center is bordered on the north and east by the Gila River Indian Community Reservation. MAC is unique among experimental farms because it is divided into two farm; a Research Farm with 430 tillable acres and a Demonstration Farm with 1460 tillable acres where the best technologies and cultural practices developed on the Research Farm are used to demonstrate to growers their economic and practical potential under normal commercial practice. The combination of the two farms has increased the speed of transfer of new technologies from research to the agricultural industry. The Research Farm is supported by state and federal funding while the Demonstration Farm receives no state or federal research funds but is funded from income generated by the sale of commodities and funds from farm programs available to any commercial grower.
A unique partnership has been established with other agencies, organizations and agricultural industries to encourage collaborative research projects with faculty and provide industry the opportunity to conduct their own proprietary research without disclosure or indebtedness to the University.
A Resident Director is responsible for the overall operation and management of the Research and Demonstration Farms. A Superintendent, Farm Manager and Farm Supervisor manage the daily operations of the Research Farm. A Farm Manager and Farm Supervisor manages the daily operations of the Demonstration Farm.
The soils on the farm are reclaimed Casa Grande, Trix and Shontik-Casa Grande. Under native conditions they were sodic-saline. The soils are calcareous and range in texture from heavy clay loam to sandy loams. The texture variations are related to the alluvial deposits from the original floodplain of the Santa Cruz River which flows north through the middle of the farm, and is now contained within a man made channel.
All fields are laser-leveled and extensive soil mapping has been done to establish a soil texture and depth database. The Center is entered into the Universal Transverse Mercator which is a geopositioning data set for precisely finding any coordinates on the farm. Extensive records are kept on cropping patterns, cultural operations and yields to assist in making management decisions, determining most suitable fields for conducting research projects and keeping track of production costs.
The Center uses water from the Maricopa-Stanfield Irrigation and Drainage District (MSIDD) for irrigation. Water comes from the Central Arizona Project and on farm wells operated by the MSIDD. The on farm wells have static ground water depths ranging from 150 to 300 feet and vary in depth between 380 and 1230 feet. The wells discharge between 600 to 2400 gallons per minute and have dissolved solids ranging from 400 to 2000 parts per million.
The Bartley P. Cardon Research Building is the headquarters for the laboratories and offices of the resident faculty, staff, cooperating USDA scientists and industry scientists. Other facilities include an Irrigation Research Laboratory, Equipment repair and fabrication shop, a wide range of storage facilities, Short and Long staple cotton gins, and Greenhouses.
The Irrigation Laboratory has 80 acres dedicated to irrigation research. The underground pipelines give the option of using different irrigation systems with water available on demand to conduct research projects. In addition, irrigation water of different quality can be provided on demand. Eight 4-acre fields have electricity to facilitate field instrumentation and remote data collection. Additional fields are available for expansion as the area for irrigation research needs increases.
Research projects are conducted on many crops such as short and long staple cotton, small grains, alfalfa, vegetables, melons, and several industrial crops such as jojoba, guayule, lesquerella, hesperaloe, and agave.
Fish production has been integrated with irrigated crop production to provide a multiple use of the water resource. This multiple use concept has proven to be a cost effective way to increase food production and add to farm income without using additional water. Fish being grown at MAC include catfish, tilapia, amur (grass carp) and koi.
Rainfall averages slightly more than 7 inches per year and occurs about 31 days out of the year. The wettest month is August at 1.15 inches and the driest month is May with 0.14 inches. About 45 percent of the precipitation occurs in the summer months and 55 percent in the winter. The growing season is 242 days, with the average first and last frost dates being November 17 and March 19. Record high and low temperatures are 121° F and 13° F. The average high and low for July is 107° F and 76° F and for January is 65° F and 33° F. Annually there are 103 days when the temperature is 100° F or above, and 43 days when the temperature drops below freezing.
MAC is a place where University and USDA scientists come together with industry scientists and growers for the purpose of transferring technology to increase production efficiency, manage air, soil and water resource efficiently and protect the environment for the benefit of producers and consumers.