South Coast Research and Extension Center (South Coast REC) was established by the University of California in 1956 as a representative site for agricultural and horticultural research in California's south coastal plain-temperate climatic zone. Although freezing weather may occur in late December and January, frost damage is rare and limited mostly to tender annuals. Severe Santa Ana winds that can be destructive to trees, bed mulches, and light farming equipment occur no more than three times from October to April.
Intensive research efforts are focused on fruits and vegetables including, but not limited to, avocados, citrus, stone fruits, strawberries, cherimoyas, persimmons, carrots, celery, sugarbeets, and tomatoes. Over the years the Center has earned a distinguished reputation, and the University now holds several U.S. patents for strawberry and avocado variety development. Considerable effort is also directed at agronomic crops, turfgrass and landscape shrub/tree management, and ornamental plant nursery production in the greenhouse and in the field. The Center is also complemented by supporting work in entomology, plant pathology, biological control, and integrated pest management.
Greenhouse bench space is maintained for research in four small greenhouses used for rearing whiteflies, in a medium-sized greenhouse used for strawberry breeding and general seedling production, and in a large, glasshouse, which is endowed with a computerized environment control system. There is also a lathhouse on the premises for acclimation of most plant species and growing of tender stock.
Staffing at South Coast REC consists of 10 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees engaged in administration, education outreach, agricultural field and physical plant operation; one Area Vertebrate Pest Advisor; one Environmental Horticulture Advisor, Emreitus; eight full-time UC Cooperative Extension Orange County staff and a variable number of general assistance and contracted seasonal labor.