The long growing season in the Columbia Basin, combined with well-drained soils, quality irrigation water and warm days and cool nights help over 200 crops thrive. HAREC researchers study many of them, but the station is best known for two: potatoes and watermelons.

In the late 1980s, George Clough, an OSU agricultural research horticulturist, developed new melon varieties and new drip irrigation and plastic film mulches to conserve water. Clough and other scientists at the research center helped turn watermelon production into a multi-million-dollar agricultural industry in the Hermiston area.

“Hermiston watermelons are the sweetest, guaranteed to be sweeter than anywhere else,” Hamm says. “That sweetness translates into higher potato, corn, wheat yields. This is such an important food production area because the climate, soil and water aspects are so unique to this region.”