The Coastal Research and Education Center (CREC), located in an active vegetable production area in South Carolina, has served for many years to enhance the industry's growth. The CREC's responsibilities include research to increase production and handling technology for the vegetable industry and dissemination of information through extension activities. In cooperation with the Clemson University Extension Service, local problem solving and grower educational programs receive major emphasis. With the population increasing in the U.S. and especially in the 'Sunbelt", the SC vegetable industry can capture a greater share of the market by utilizing innovating production and Postharvest methodology and effective pest management systems that include biological control and pest-resistant plants. The CREC provides instruction and practical experience to graduate students in all areas of vegetable sciences and coordinates its programs with those of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Vegetable Laboratory.
To address the needs for horticultural information and guidance of the urban population in the Charleston peninsular city and suburbs the Urban Research and Demonstration Area was established on site to demonstrate cultivation of ornamentals. It is currently maintained by an active group of Tri-County Master Gardeners and includes a small arboretum and a variety of theme beds showcasing native plantings, herbs, edible plants, butterfly favorites as well as pollinator, small fruit and shade gardens. The CREC also includes a 10-acre section that is certified organic as well as one hedge of tea that was planted in the early years of the Center's establishment.
After the demise of the Sea Island cotton industry, vegetable 'truck' farming was viewed as an alternative agricultural enterprise for Low Country farms. In 1932, the Agricultural Society of South Carolina purchased a tract of land five miles south of Charleston on U.S. 17 and shortly afterwards the land was deed to the state for use by Clemson College. A small building was built that included laboratories for pathology, horticulture and entomology. Research began immediately on solving problems affecting the production of beans, corn, melons, and cabbage.
The first multiple disease resistant vegetable varieties were developed at the CREC. Numerous slicing cucumber varieties such as 'Ashley' and 'Polaris' and pickling cucumbers such as 'Chipper', 'Galaxy', and 'Sumter' were developed with multiple disease resistance. At one point, 80% and 50% of the world and U.S. slicer cucumber production, respectively, were varieties that originated from CREC breeding programs. 'Marion' tomato is one of the last open pollinated varieties to be developed with multiple disease resistance and displaying heat tolerance. Other contributions included 'Marketmore' cucumber, 'Blondie' and 'Burgundy' okra, 'Parris Island' lettuce, 'Cherokee' wax beans, 'Ranger' squash and several downy mildew-resistant cabbage breeding lines, such as 'Carolina Seven'.
Dissemination of information and introduction of new varieties have contributed greatly to the expansion of the industry and to the income of growers. The South Carolina Truck Experiment Station was renamed the Coastal Research and Education Center in the mid-1980's. In 2003 the Center moved its offices and laboratories to share new facilities with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Vegetable Laboratory.