Flying over Hermiston, you see a landscape polka-dotted with giant green circles. Water, much of it delivered through circular center pivots, creates these patterns across about 1.5 million acres of irrigated farmland on both sides of the Columbia River.
Since 1908, when the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation opened the gates of Cold Springs Reservoir, irrigation has transformed the region’s bunchgrass prairies into one of the most productive agricultural areas in the Pacific Northwest. OSU’s Hermiston Agricultural Research and Extension Center is at the heart of this landscape. From a shady oasis of whitewashed buildings, the center houses labs, greenhouses, and screen houses, and operates a dozen center pivots, gifts from agribusinesses so research can be done under the same conditions as in local commercial fields.