Pent helms research, Extension base in Virginia
RAPHINE, Va. — Dr. Gabriel J. “Gabe” Pent is the new superintendent of Virginia Tech’s Shenandoah Valley Agriculture Research and Extension Center.
Pent joined the research here May 10, succeeding Dr. David Fiske whose unexpected death last fall left the post vacant.
“To be a premier information and data hub for forage-based livestock systems in the Mid-Atlantic U.S.,” is his stated goal for the facility headquartered at the Historic McCormick farm where modern farming took a great step forward.
Pent moved from VT’s Southern Piedmont Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Blackstone where he has served as Extension specialist for ruminant livestock systems, since 2017. Prior to that the Florida native began his career at Virginia Tech in 2013 as a research assistant in the Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences.
Pent earned his Bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of Central Florida and his PhD in Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences from Virginia Tech.
His research within the university’s systems had dealt with a variety of issues facing farmers in Virginia and the Mid-Atlantic. These include heat stress through silvopasture, novel tall fescue technologies, and alternative warm season forages.
Pent has also focused on using various technologies to identify animal welfare issues, the university said. These include drones/thermal cameras, time lapse camera, intravaginal temperature loggers, acoustic detection of grazing behavior, GPS and finishing beef systems.
The Shenandoah AREC holds a unique place in the Extension research and education network, looking to the future through its research and to the past because of its historical significance.
Cyrus Hall McCormick who was born on the farm in 1809 is credited with building the first practical grain reaper. He successfully demonstrated it in a field of oats owned by John Steele in nearby Steele’s Tavern in 1831.
“This farm has had a long history of agricultural innovation,” he said. “That legacy is our priority as we fulfill the land grant mission to develop practical solutions to issues in agriculture and demonstrate the use of those practices to the farmers that need them.
“Cyrus McCormick realized the importance of the ‘field test’ in demonstrating the success of his reaper,” Pent added. “Likewise, we recognize the value of showing farmers the opportunities and challenges of various practices developed by scientists at this experimental farm so they can adapt them to improve their production systems.”
The 620-acre research center includes a museum on land donated by the McCormick family in 1954.
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