Dr. E. Barclay Poling

— Written By Barclay Poling
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Professor, Department of Horticultural Science

Ph.D., Pomology & Viticulture, Cornell University, 1980

M.S., Pomology, Cornell University, 1977

B.S., Environmental Economics, College of William and Mary, 1975

Dr. Barclay Poling started his career at N.C. State University in 1980 as a small fruit specialist. After completing graduate research at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., he was eager to work in a region of the country with milder winters while he continued researching practices that would allow growers to change over from the traditional matted row cultural system to annual hill production on raised beds covered in plastic mulch. As the Department of Horticultural Science expanded to include experts for almost every small fruit grown in the state, Poling narrowed his focus to strawberries.

In nearly three decades devoted to Extension and research at N.C. State, he has been directly involved with introducing and implementing plasticulture production methods in North Carolina. He also helped develop plug technology for strawberries and he has championed the use of floating row covers. He has built on all these innovations in an effort to extend the growing season and increase the market share of the North Carolina strawberry industry.

“We’re desperately trying to break free of this two-month harvest season,” he says. With the use of high tunnels and heat-resistant varieties, Poling expects N.C. farmers may soon be producing strawberries nine to 10 months out of the year. He hopes the industry, now at $25 million to $28 million annually, will double in size in the next five years.

When he received the Outstanding Extension Service Award in 2007, Poling said, “By having focused our research programs in horticultural science on the development of the strawberry plasticulture system over the last 20 years, a once declining, matted-row strawberry industry in North Carolina has made a successful transition to becoming one of the top three strawberry producing states in the United States, following California and Florida.”

Though Poling has contributed to nearly all aspects of the N.C. strawberry culture, most growers know him best for his electronic advisory, berry mg. For more than 10 years, Poling has sent critical temperature and weather information directly to growers via e-mail.

With ongoing strawberry research at seven research stations from the mountains to the coastal plains, he keeps abreast of regional concerns or climate-specific issues. He travels through the state to meet with growers for pre-plant meetings in August and pre-harvest meetings in March.

Poling was a founder of the Small Fruit Center in 1996 and assumed responsibility for the muscadine cultural research program in 2005. He also serves as an advisor to the N.C. Strawberry Association and the N.C. Muscadine Grape Growers Association.

Poling sums up his work philosophy with this thought from Sidney J. Harris, as quoted in Reclaiming a Lost Heritage – Land-Grant & Other Higher Education Initiatives for the Twenty-first Century, “An idealist believes the short run does not count. A cynic believes the long run does not matter. A realist believes that what is done or left undone in the short run determines the long run.”

Posted on Jul 22, 2009
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