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Texas Crop and Weather Report – July 22, 2019

Texas row crops experiencing light insect pressure so far

COLLEGE STATION – Row crops in North Texas and the South Plains are in the home stretch and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service experts want producers to keep a watchful eye on pest infestations.

Dr. Allen Knutson, AgriLife Extension entomologist, Dallas, and Blayne Reed, AgriLife Extension integrated pest management specialist, Hale County, reported pest activity in North Texas and the South Plains has been “light” so far. But both said producers should scout vigilantly and be prepared to act to protect crops. 

CORN

Knutson said corn between Waco and the Red River is drying down, which reduces the risk of insect damage. He said harvest should begin in a few weeks.

A New World corn earworm also known as the cotton bollworm, dines on an ear of corn.  (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Dr. Pat Porter)

“There have been relatively few insect problems in corn,” he said. “Mexican corn rootworms were present in some fields earlier, and spider mites bear watching in later-planted fields.”

Reed said most corn in the South Plains varied in stages due to numerous replants. But the pest pressure was also light in cornfields, with sparse fall armyworm feeding and light bollworm egg lays compared to recent seasons. 

SORGHUM

Knutson said much of the sorghum crop in North Texas has completed flowering and is in the grain fill stage. 

Headworms, stinkbugs and sugarcane aphids are pests of concern for the crop. 

He attributed the light sugarcane aphid pressure to area growers planting aphid-tolerant sorghum hybrids. Planting these hybrids in South Texas also helped reduce the number of aphids moving into North Texas.

“Sugarcane aphids have been generally light throughout the area but can increase rapidly even late in the season,” he said. “Producers should monitor fields twice a week for sugarcane aphids and honeydew accumulation on leaves and grain heads, which can make harvest very difficult.” 

For control of sugarcane aphid late season, follow insecticide labels on waiting period after insecticide application and before harvest; some have a 14-day waiting period, Knutson said.

Dr. Ada Szczepaniec, Texas A&M AgriLife Research entomologist, examines a heavy infestation of sugarcane aphids in 2016. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Kay Ledbetter)

Reed said pest populations remain light with no reports of sugarcane aphids, but producers need to be vigilant.

“This could be a long season for watching pests such as sorghum midge and many others with such a wide range of blooming time frames in the same area,” he said. “It could prove likely that the pest populations could build larger with each ‘generation’ of crop development, reaching levels that would be quite high by the fall for the latest fields.” 

COTTON 

The key pest of concern in cotton is the bollworm, Knutson said. 

Beneficial insects that feed on bollworms are the first line of defense but can be overwhelmed when large numbers of bollworm eggs occur.  

“All cotton, especially varieties with two Bt genes for resistance, should be scouted weekly for bollworms to determine if an insecticide is needed,” he said. 

Reed said South Plains cotton ranged from pinhead square to first bloom. Most fields were experiencing pests, especially fleahoppers, but beneficial insects and weather conditions have decreased their numbers.

“We did find one bollworm egg in a cotton field this week,” he said. “This is early for the region and is hopefully not a precursor for issues to come, but it is noteworthy.” 

HAY and PASTURES 

Fall armyworm activity has been very light, with only a few reports from East Texas to date, Knutson said. Hay producers should also be mindful to watch for signs of Bermuda grass stem maggots.

Late summer rains are often followed by fall armyworm outbreaks in pastures and hay fields, said Dr. Allen Knutson, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service entomologist, Dallas. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo)

The number of fall armyworms captured in pheromone traps in North Texas has also been very low. This is good news given the extensive losses observed last year. 

“Fall armyworm is not believed to overwinter in North Texas so the new moths for 2019 must migrate into North Texas from overwintering in South Texas,” he said. “Trap data indicates that so far, few moths have moved into North Texas. However, risk for fall armyworm infestations increases in August and September, so weekly field inspection for fall armyworm is advised.”  

AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

The 12 Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Districts

CENTRAL: Conditions dried out due to lack of rain. Crops were starting to mature with hot temperatures. Producers were baling hay, but production slowed and pastures were beginning to stress due to the hot temperatures. All livestock were doing well on pastures. Fly numbers increased in cow herds. Nearly all counties reported good soil moisture levels. Overall crop, rangeland and pasture conditions were good in nearly all counties.

ROLLING PLAINS: Conditions were hot, dry and windy. Pastures remained in good condition. Hay production was good in grasses, sorghum and Sudangrass fields. Area sheep and cattle producers were able to rely on grazing in pastures due to good rains throughout the summer. Some sheep producers were addressing a small problem with coccidiosis, but it was under control.

COASTAL BEND: Hot, dry and humid weather conditions continued. Weather was ideal for harvesting crops. Grain sorghum and corn were drying down, with harvest in full swing in some areas and near completion in the southern end of the district. Above-average yields were reported for both corn and grain sorghum. Harvest aids were applied to some early planted cotton with first harvest about two weeks away. Other cotton fields needed a timely rain, and producers with irrigation were watering. Rice was heading out. Pastures and hayfields needed rain. Hay baling continued with average to above-average yields. Livestock were in good condition with ample forage supplies. Water levels in some stock ponds were beginning to decline. 

EAST: There was little to no rain across the district. A few counties needed rainfall. Trinity County reported producers were worried about the lack of rain. Hay production was in full swing with drier conditions helping the curing process. Pasture and rangeland conditions were good in most areas. Subsoil and topsoil conditions continued to be adequate. Watermelon harvesting continued. Pea crops were fair to good. Farmers’ market sales were up. Livestock were doing well. Horn flies were a problem in Anderson County. Wild pigs caused damage across the district. Houston County reported increased armyworms and Bermuda stem maggots. Producers in several counties were keeping an eye out for armyworms. 

SOUTH PLAINS: Conditions were hot and dry. Topsoil and subsoil moisture levels were fair, but the recent 100-degree temperatures were starting to dry soils out. Producers continued to irrigate. Dryland crops and pastures were struggling in the heat with no moisture. Temperatures were expected to cool, and rain was in the extended forecast. Cattle were in good condition.

PANHANDLE: Conditions were hot and dry with triple-digit high temperatures. Crop conditions were mixed around the district. Wheat farmers finally finished harvest. Corn sorghum and soybeans were growing rapidly with heat and available moisture. Weed control and plowing were taking place in crops and fallow fields. Some irrigated producers were watering corn. Rangeland and pastures were still in excellent condition. Cattle and crops have suffered from the heat. The eastern portion of the Panhandle received some much-needed moisture, but the heat rapidly dried out rangeland conditions. Western parts of the district reported adequate subsoil moisture.  

NORTH: Soil moisture was short to adequate across the district. There was no rain with daytime temperatures in the mid- to high-90s and consistent 5-12 mph winds. Topsoil was drying out. Hay producers were putting up a lot of hay, with reports of some very high tonnage. However,  the quality was not expected to be very good. Corn, soybeans and cotton were doing well. Potential corn yields looked very good on acres that were planted. Timely rains would help crops and pastures. Livestock were in good condition.

FAR WEST: Temperatures were around 100 degrees with lows in the upper 70s. Scattered thunderstorms produced up to 1 inch of rainfall in some areas. Lightning and high winds caused downed power lines, creating a few small fires in dried-out rangeland areas. Dryland cotton was beginning to stress in the heat. Sorghum and corn were nearing maturity or were mature in most fields. Watermelon harvest continued but also looked to be nearing the end. Grasses were dying off and pasture conditions were declining. Livestock conditions remained good to fair. Producers weaned calves and were feeding in preparation for shipping to feedlots.

WEST CENTRAL: Conditions were hot and dry. Heat stress was beginning to show in many crops, rangelands and pastures. Cotton was mostly in good condition. Grain sorghum was maturing. Forage sorghums and other hay crops continued to be harvested with decent yields due to early season rains. Rangeland and pasture conditions were declining. Grasshopper outbreaks continued in some counties, with losses to crops and forages reported. The calf and cattle market was steady on all classes.

SOUTHEAST: Scattered showers and mild temperatures were reported. But extreme hot temperatures in other parts of the district were causing pastures to dry up fast. Hay harvest was in full swing across most of the district. Vegetables were declining in production and quality. The emergence of several fungal pathogens in trees was a big issue for homeowners. Rangeland and pasture ratings were excellent to good with good being most common. Soil moisture levels ranged from adequate to short with adequate being most common.

SOUTHWEST: Hot, dry weather caused rangeland and pasture conditions to decline. Corn was drying out. Milo harvest was expected to start soon. Cotton was blooming. Livestock and wildlife were doing well.

SOUTH: Hot, dry weather conditions with short to very short soil moisture levels were reported. Maverick, Dimmit and Duval counties reported temperatures were in the 100s every day. Producers in the northeast part of Zapata County reported up to 1 inch of rain. Peanuts were pegging and under irrigation. Cotton was flowering. Cotton in Jim Wells County was showing signs of cutting out early and will most likely not produce a good yield. Cotton under irrigation looked good. Pastures were declining, and rain will be needed to produce another cutting. Forage was still adequate in most parts of the district, but grasses were drying. Some producers were hauling hay and water and providing supplemental range cubes. Some cattle producers were reducing their herds due to dry weather. Starr County reported some rangelands and pastures were responding well to recent rains. Corn was drying down well, and the harvest was in full swing. Sorghum harvest was about 10-12 days out in some parts. Bermuda grass and haygrazer was cut and baled. Irrigated vegetables and Bermuda grass fields were in good condition. Pecan orchards were developing well with irrigation. 

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Baker named department head for Texas A&M agricultural leadership, education and communications

Dr. Matt Baker Headshot

COLLEGE STATION — Dr. Matt Baker has been named head of the department of agricultural leadership, education and communications, ALEC, in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M University in College Station, beginning Aug. 1.

Dr. Matt Baker Headshot

Dr. Matt Baker named head of the department of agricultural leadership, education and communications, effective Aug. 1. (Photo courtesy of Blair Fannin.)

Baker, a native of Vernon, was a professor in the department of agricultural education and communications at Texas Tech University for eight years. He taught and advised undergraduate- and graduate students, participated on transdisciplinary research and education teams, mentored junior faculty and provided leadership to numerous university activities and professional associations. He also served as founding dean for University College at Texas Tech for three years and departmental chair for agricultural education and communications for eight years.

Baker focuses his research on antecedents to human behavior. Specifically, he has measured biometric-skin conductance, facial expressions, eye-movement, heart rate and respiration- responses to differing medium, messages and online treatments. He has also used continuous response systems to examine the effects of real-time medium and message treatments.

In his new role at Texas A&M, Baker will provide leadership to program faculty, staff and students in the department, continue his research into cognitive and emotional responses to medium and messages, and teach courses in research and statistics. His vision is to enhance the impact of departmental research programs, recruit students into the department from around Texas and throughout the world, provide world-renowned outreach programs and further develop an already outstanding Texas A&M University AgriLife Extension Organizational Development and Program Evaluation unit housed in the department.

“We are honored to have Dr. Baker join our college and lead the department into its next phase,” said Dr. Patrick J. Stover, vice chancellor and dean for agriculture and life sciences at Texas A&M AgriLife. “He brings a wealth of experience that will benefit not only the department of agricultural leadership, education and communications, but also the college as a whole.”

He has received many awards and honors over the years, including being named a Fellow for the American Association for Agricultural Education, a Senior Fellow for the Association for International Agricultural and Extension Education, and a recipient of the President’s Excellence in Teaching Award at Texas Tech University. Baker is also a member of many professional societies, including the American Association for Agricultural Education, the Association for International Agricultural and Extension Education, and the American Evaluation Association.

“I know I will have an opportunity to work with wonderful people in the department, people with great teaching philosophies, people who understand the value of our student population and how important those populations are to our land-grant mission in Texas,” Baker said. “There exists a huge base of former students, and I look forward to meeting more of them. The opportunities in research are tremendous, so I look for nothing but good things to happen at Texas A&M University and the ALEC department.”

Baker received his bachelor’s degree in agricultural education and a master’s degree in educational administration from Texas Tech University, and his doctorate in agricultural education from the Ohio State University.

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Anthrax increase in Texas: Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Lab helps identify, track high-consequence diseases in animals

Writer: Mallory Pfeifer, 979-845-3414,  Mallory.Pfeifer@tvmdl.tamu.edu

Media contact: Susan Himes, 325-657-7315, Susan.Himes@ag.tamu.edu

The Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (TVMDL) has already confirmed 10 cases of anthrax this summer. (TVMDL photo)

COLLEGE STATION — The Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (TVMDL) plays a vital role in animal disease surveillance efforts, including anthrax. On average, TVMDL diagnoses two to three positive cases of anthrax annually in summer months. Thus far in 2019, the agency has confirmed 10 positive cases in several species, including exotic antelope, goats, horses, white-tailed deer and cattle. All positive cases have come from a Texas region with a historical presence of anthrax.

“Detection of this summer’s increased number of anthrax cases is just one example of the on-going role TVMDL plays in protecting animal health, human health, a safe food supply and the financial well-being of the second largest part of the Texas economy,” said Dr. Bruce Akey, director, TVMDL.

The “anthrax triangle” is the area of  Texas where cases are traditionally seen. Shaded counties represent where 2019 cases have occurred. (Texas Animal Health Commission map)

Anthrax, caused by Bacillus anthracis, is a spore-forming bacterium that is naturally occurring in soil in certain parts of Texas and around the world. As the veterinary diagnostic laboratory for Texas, TVMDL conducts thousands of surveillance tests each year for the early detection of high-consequence diseases that could have a devastating impact on the state’s livestock and poultry industries.

Bacillus anthracis spores can lie dormant in soil for several years, even decades. Typically, the bacterium infects grazing animals through ingestion of contaminated soil. Animals may also be exposed to anthrax through inhalation and through the skin; however, those are less common routes of transmission.

Anthrax is on the federal list of potential bioterrorism agents and is a zoonotic disease – a disease that can also infect humans. Therefore, anyone handling animals suspected of exposure to anthrax should take necessary precautions, such as wearing long sleeves and gloves.

How Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Lab helps identify anthrax

Once a suspected anthrax specimen arrives at the laboratory, TVMDL’s microbiologists obtain a pure bacteriological sample. This process is called isolation. After isolation, microbiologists identify diseases, like Bacillus anthracis, on the basis of physical characteristics of the bacteria itself and how it grows on culture plates. Following identification, TVMDL’s microbiologists use additional specific tests to confirm the identity of the bacteria.

Working together, against anthrax

When it comes to identifying, tracking and stopping the spread of diseases like anthrax, TVMDL is one of many partners working together to protect Texas livestock. In accordance with state and federal regulations, TVMDL must report certain high-consequence diseases to various regulatory agencies, such as the Texas Animal Health Commission, the Department of State Health Services and, in the case of a potential bioterrorism agent like anthrax, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as well. Once reported, regulatory agencies work with affected parties to control the spread of the disease.

Anthrax in livestock and wildlife

Clinical signs of anthrax in cattle, sheep, goats and deer may include fever, disorientation, labored breathing, muscle tremors, congested mucous membranes and collapse. It is possible for sudden death to occur without the presence of clinical signs. An animal can appear healthy and be dead within a matter of a few hours. In addition to the above clinical signs, horses may show signs of colic, enteritis and swelling of the neck and lower abdomen.

TVMDL encourages animal owners who have an interest in testing for anthrax to first contact a private veterinarian who can assist with evaluating suspect animals and the proper collection of samples. Once testing has been conducted, a TVMDL veterinary diagnostician can consult with private veterinarians and animal owners on additional testing and sampling requirements.

Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Lab’s role in protecting Texas

In addition to anthrax surveillance testing, TVMDL offers over 700 tests for a variety of diseases and conditions from clients across Texas, the United States and other countries.

For more information on anthrax and other TVMDL test offerings, visit https://tvmdl.tamu.edu or call our College Station laboratory at 1-888-646-5623 or our Amarillo laboratory at 1-888-646-5624. To learn more about precautions when handling suspected anthrax samples and disposal of anthrax-infected carcasses, visit the Department of State Health Services website at https://www.dshs.state.tx.us/idcu/disease/anthrax/information/faqs/.

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Monclova-Santana joins AgriLife Extension as plant pathologist

Plant pathologist Dr. Cecilia Monclova-Santana has joined AgriLife Extension.  She is based in Lubbock.

LUBBOCK — Dr. Cecilia Monclova-Santana has been hired as a plant pathologist for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service in Lubbock. She will be working with peanuts and cotton, as well as other crops.

“We are pleased to have Dr. Monclova-Santana join our research and extension team at the Lubbock Center,” said Jaroy Moore, AgriLife Research and Extension Center resident director, Lubbock. “Her skill sets and expertise will be put to use immediately with our scientists working on FOV4, a cotton disease, that is now in the El Paso Valley, which we hope does not not reach the Southern High Plains or other areas in Texas.”

Monclova-Santana earned her doctorate from North Dakota University and her master’s degree in plant pathology from the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez. Her fields of expertise include mycology, nematology and bacteriology, and the molecular and morphological characterization of fungi. 

“I wanted to work for AgriLife, not only because of its national reputation, but most importantly for the relevance of the work,” said Monclova-Santana. “I saw from the first minute that I visited for my job interview that this was the perfect place for me to grow professionally, and to make an impact on growers. I feel my work here will be valued and will even transcend the region.”

She said her goal in this position is to create a high-quality extension and research program. 

“Five years from now, I envision having a very strong extension and research program for peanuts and cotton, where growers feel heard and assisted. I see my team producing high quality data to be used by colleagues, county agents, growers and even farm workers,” she said.

“In addition, my team will serve any other crop that has the need for a plant pathologist. I would also love to strengthen what the program offers in Spanish, to be able to better serve the Hispanic population in agriculture.”

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Ferrell Publishes “Understanding Solar Energy Agreements”

Many landowners in Texas and around the country are being approached by solar energy developers seeking to lease land to build solar projects.

Photo via Edwin Remsberg

Recently, my friend and counterpart at Oklahoma State University, Shannon Ferrell, published a great guide looking at the law related to solar lease agreements through the National Agricultural Law Center.  Shannon is without question the national expert on renewable energy leases, so anyone considering a solar lease agreement should review Shannon’s article. To download a copy, click here.

Additionally,  if you want to listen to me visit with a Texas attorney who frequently represents landowners in solar lease transactions, check out our latest Ag Law in the Field Podcast episode with Parks Brown by clicking here (or searching for Ag Law in the Field in your favorite podcast app).

The post Ferrell Publishes “Understanding Solar Energy Agreements” appeared first on Texas Agriculture Law.

Ferrell Publishes “Understanding Solar Energy Agreements”

Many landowners in Texas and around the country are being approached by solar energy developers seeking to lease land to build solar projects.

Photo via Edwin Remsberg

Recently, my friend and counterpart at Oklahoma State University, Shannon Ferrell, published a great guide looking at the law related to solar lease agreements through the National Agricultural Law Center.  Shannon is without question the national expert on renewable energy leases, so anyone considering a solar lease agreement should review Shannon’s article. To download a copy, click here.

Additionally,  if you want to listen to me visit with a Texas attorney who frequently represents landowners in solar lease transactions, check out our latest Ag Law in the Field Podcast episode with Parks Brown by clicking here (or searching for Ag Law in the Field in your favorite podcast app).

The post Ferrell Publishes “Understanding Solar Energy Agreements” appeared first on Texas Agriculture Law.

Grants awarded to AgriLife Extension for sheep, goat genetic advancements 

AgriLife Extension has been awarded over $136,000 in grants related to advancing sheep and goat production in Texas through genetics. (AgriLife photo by Susan Himes)

SAN ANGELO — The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service in San Angelo has been awarded a trio of grants totaling over $136,000 to further develop research and educational outreach projects related to improving sheep and goat production in Texas.

Although it is the largest sheep and goat producing state in terms of numbers, Texas has not widely adopted the genetic technology proven to improve the health and productivity of small ruminants, according to AgriLife Extension specialists.

Dr. Reid Redden, AgriLife Extension sheep and goat specialist, and Jake Thorne, AgriLife Extension associate, will be leading the newly implemented grant-funded programs. All research testing will be conducted on privately owned sheep and goats, which will allow for real-time industry adoption of technology, said Redden.

Redden also said it’s reasonable to assume the state could improve its productivity by 30% to 50% through the implementation of key programs, which are much more accessible and affordable due to recent technological advancements.

AgriLife Extension has been awarded grants for the following projects:

  • “Genetic Selection Tools and Techniques to Benefit Texas Range Sheep Producers” – This $50,000 grant has the goal of getting seedstock producers of range Rambouillet and Dorper sheep to utilize genomic technology and enroll in the National Sheep Improvement Program, or NSIP. DNA sequencing, using the genomic sequencing chip, Flock54, will be used to pedigree match 2,500 animals. These animals will come from eight to 10 seedstock producers who provide breeding stock to a large percentage of the commercial sheep industry in Texas.
  • “Training Texas County Extension Agents and Mentor Ranchers to Improve Small Ruminant Health and Productivity Through Natural Genetic Selection Strategies” – This two-year project funded by a grant worth over $76,000 will educate ranchers and AgriLife Extension agents on how to use the NSIP to develop estimated breeding values, or EBVs, and how to then use those to market seedstock. After training, mentored ranchers and agents will host field days and workshops in their local communities to share their knowledge with other producers to help improve the health and productivity of area herds.
  • “Implementation of Genetic Selection Technologies on Texas Sheep Ranches” – This grant for just under $10,000 allows for DNA sampling and testing of progeny studs using high-density genomics chips. Thorne said this will allow the investigation of these rams’ genomes in depth – providing 660 times more genetic data than what the Flock54 panel reveals. He said analysis of that data will also provide important research opportunities, since the validation of gene markers is still necessary for many important polygenic traits associated with sheep.

 

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Land stewardship tips focus of women’s conference Sept. 30-Oct. 1 in Fredericksburg

Writer: Kay Ledbetter, 806-677-5608, skledbetter@ag.tamu.edu
Contact: Dr. Larry Redmon, 979-845-4826, l-redmon@tamu.edu

FREDERICKSBURG – Women landowners and operators will find answers to questions and hear about conservation management practices essential to their property at the 2019 Bennett Trust Land Stewardship Women’s Conference.

“Tips for the Trade” will be the theme of the conference set for Sept. 30-Oct. 1 at The Inn on Barons Creek, 308 S. Washington St., Fredericksburg. Cost is $100 and includes the opening breakfast as well as all other meals, break refreshments and tour transportation.

Funded in part by the Ruth and Eskel Bennett Trust, the conference is an effort to reach women landowners who want to learn more about stewardship of the land, said Dr. Larry Redmon, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service program leader and associate head, Texas A&M University soil and crop sciences department, College Station.

“We believe women from throughout Texas and the surrounding states will find a lot of value in this event,” Redmon said. “Our excellent slate of speakers and topics to be covered extend far beyond the Edwards Plateau region, so we welcome everyone to come and learn with us.”

This year’s keynote speaker, Dr. Susan Ballabina, Texas A&M AgriLife deputy vice chancellor, College Station, will address conservation of natural resources.

Other speakers and their topics on Sept. 30 include:

– Quail, Amanda Gobeli, AgriLife Extension associate with the Texas A&M Institute of Natural Resources, College Station.

– 1D1 Wildlife as Agriculture, Redmon.

– Agriculture Laws Every Landowner Needs to Know, Tiffany Dowell Lashmet, AgriLife Extension, Amarillo.

– Financial Considerations on the Ranch, Jae Thompson, Capital Farm Credit, Uvalde.

– Path to the Plate, Whitney Whitworth, AgriLife Extension family and community health agent, Llano County.

– Brush Busters/Prescribed Fire, Dr. Morgan Treadwell, AgriLife Extension range specialist, San Angelo.

– Guts and Glory: Finding Your Place, Dr. Megan Clayton, AgriLife Extension range specialist, Corpus Christi.

On Oct. 1, conference attendees will travel to outdoor sessions on plant identification, skeet shooting and archery in the morning. Following lunch, the group will tour a ranch in the Fredericksburg/Kerrville area.

For more information, go to https://agrilife.org/bennetttrust/, or contact Redmon at l-redmon@tamu.edu or Linda Francis, l-francis@tamu.edu.

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Texas A&M researchers to develop climate-smart sorghum

Improved yield, greenhouse gas mitigation, water quality are ultimate goals

Contacts: Dr. Nithya Rajan, 979-845-0360, nrajan@tamu.edu
Dr. Bill Rooney, 979-845-2151, wlr@tamu.edu
Dr. Ronnie Schnell, 979-845-2935, ronschnell@tamu.edu

Dr. Nithya Rajan, left, with Dr. Guntur Subbarao, middle, and Dr. Santosh Deshpande, far right, at the BNI field test site at ICRISAT in Hyderabad, India. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo)

COLLEGE STATION – Texas A&M researchers believe the development of climate-smart crops is the key to improving nitrogen-use efficiency and reducing fertilizer nitrogen loss in agricultural fields.

The crops would have the ability to suppress soil nitrification and have reduced nitrogen emissions, said Dr. Nithya Rajan, Texas A&M AgriLife Research crop physiologist and principal investigator in College Station.

Rajan initiated a project study, “Innovative Sorghum-Based Production Systems with Biological Nitrification Inhibition Property to Enhance Sustainability of Agroecosystems,” funded by a $500,000 grant through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative – Foundational and Applied Science Program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture – National Institute for Food and Agriculture, USDA-NIFA.

She said nitrification and subsequent denitrification activities promote the loss of nitrogen from agricultural fields and largely is the underlying reason for low nitrogen-use efficiency in most field crops, including sorghum.

Sorghum seedlings are grown in special boxes for BNI characterization. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo)

“Some plants can suppress nitrification by releasing inhibitors from their roots, a property known as biological nitrification inhibition (BNI),” Rajan said. “This will help with retention of nitrogen for longer periods of time to facilitate its uptake by crops and reduce the loss of nitrogen as nitrous oxide, a powerful greenhouse gas and ozone-depleting substance.”

Initial work supported by another USDA-NIFA exploratory grant involved screening for BNI properties of a range of diverse sorghum genotypes from the program of AgriLife Research sorghum breeder Dr. William Rooney.

This exploratory work was carried out in collaboration with Dr. Guntur Subbarao, principal scientist from the Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences, JIRCAS, in Tsukuba, Japan. Subbarao is a pioneer and world-renowned BNI expert.

“We believe that BNI-enabled crops and production systems are part of innovative solutions for a genetic-mitigation strategy to address problems associated with nitrogen fertilizers in agriculture,” Subbarao said.

Subbarao leads a multi-institutional research group on BNI research in collaboration with several CGIAR institutes including the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, ICRISAT, in Hyderabad, India.

“By collaborating with international institutions such as JIRCAS and ICRISAT that are at the forefront of developing this technology, we can bring innovative solutions to benefit U.S. agriculture,” Rajan said.

The current NIFA project is a collaborative effort by AgriLife Research, Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station and JIRCAS.

Tackling the project with Rajan are the following Texas A&M researchers in College Station and their specialties: Drs. Sakiko Okumoto, plant physiologist; Ronnie Schnell, agronomist; Jacqueline Aitkenhead-Peterson, urban nutrient and water runoff; Kung-Hui Chu, environmental microbiology; John Jifon, plant physiologist; Muthu Bagavathiannan, weed scientist; as well as Rooney and Subbarao.

They will spend the next two years quantifying and characterizing the BNI compound secretion in sorghum, and evaluating the release of BNI compounds and nitrification inhibition in soils.

“The possibility of BNI in sorghum is exciting and has the potential to fundamentally change the way nitrogen is managed in the future for sorghum as well as other crops,” Schnell said. “Improving nitrogen-use efficiency in grain crops will have substantial economic and environmental benefits for Texas and its farmers. However, there is a lot of research that needs to be done first to develop this technology.”

Beyond identifying elite sorghum cultivars with BNI properties, extensive field testing will be needed to develop cropping systems around this new technology, he said.

“The long-term goal of this program is to develop elite sorghum cultivars with enhanced BNI properties,” Rooney said. “Preliminary evidence indicates that variation exists among sorghum genotypes and it will be possible to improve this trait to have an impact in the future.”

 

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Texas A&M to bridge rural/urban divide with food, agriculture science

Vice Chancellor Stover takes his message to Vernon, Stephenville

Writers: Kay Ledbetter, 806-677-5608, skledbetter@ag.tamu.edu
Adam Russell, 903-834-6191, adam.russell@ag.tamu.edu

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COLLEGE STATION – About a thousand new faces show up in Texas every day, moving into the Metroplex, Austin, San Antonio and Houston, and they have little to no connection to the state’s agriculture-based culture and economy.

Dr. Patrick Stover, Texas A&M AgriLife vice chancellor, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and director of Texas A&M AgriLife Research in College Station, explained his plan to change that information gap during recent visits to Vernon and Stephenville.

Stover, a little more than a year into the job, sat down with Texas A&M AgriLife faculty and staff at both locations, as well as community leaders and producers, to discuss future opportunities to continue to bridge the gap between urban and rural populations.

“It is important, as Texas becomes more urbanized, that we maintain the strong agriculture presence throughout the state for the good of our economy as well as the good of our rural and urban communities that need good, wholesome food to keep people healthy,” he said.

Stover said Texas A&M AgriLife has the unique opportunity to create a national model to bridge that divide to make sure everyone appreciates the role food plays in their daily lives – in their health, security and well-being.

“We’re creating a place that can increase the profitability of agriculture and eliminate the doubts that surround the food system,” he said. “We want to build consumer acceptance and bring in more science to how we produce food in a way that brings the two together.”

Stover said in order to better align the two, the advocacy and mythology that surrounds the food chain must be replaced with sound science. Texas A&M, as the land-grant institution for the state of Texas, has a mission to do that.

“Efforts are being made now to ensure Texas A&M becomes the place that Texans can get truthful, unbiased, rigorous information on any question anyone may have concerning production agriculture or consumption,” Stover said.

A scientific evidence center that will be an authoritative source of trustworthy information is being designed to reach consumers and policymakers who need to know about agriculture and the important role it plays in their lives, he said.

“This will be a world-class international consortium where people are looking at the food supply and the connection between food and health. We’re going to be the go-to place and become more of a voice for science.”

Stover’s tour throughout the state also gives him an opportunity to hear firsthand from producers about the programs and research Texas A&M AgriLife offers.

“Those producers are quite frank with us and tell us the areas where we can do better,” he said. “It is our mission to serve those producers and make sure they have the tools and technology and information they need. Having this dialogue with them helps us make sure we are meeting our mission.”

 

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