The Plains and Panhandle Region of Texas is significant for several reasons. It is the most irrigated region in the state with 1.38 million irrigated acres. The region is known for its cattle industry. In fact, one-third of all U.S. beef cattle are finished within a 150-mile radius of Amarillo. Corn is the major irrigated crop in the region, using 53% of the region’s water budget annually.
- Scientists at Vernon are developing a behavioral-based monitoring system using RFID technology for preclinical detection and mitigation of Bovine respiratory disease which costs the cattle industry $1 billion annually in morbidity and mortality.
- Amarillo researchers estimate that a Panhandle feedlot with a capacity over 32,000 head could save about $40,000 per year by adopting dust-abatement practices alone.
- Remote-sensing technologies detect plant disease early and save around 28.6 million gallons of groundwater.
- Web-based irrigation scheduling tools developed by researchers save 50% of the Panhandle’s irrigation conservation needs.
- Results show that a least one irrigation or about 3,000 acre-feet of freshwater per year, can be saved using soil moisture based irrigation scheduling in El Paso County.
- The Lubbock center conducted a multi-year study showing that fertilizing cotton with more than 100lbs of nitrogen per acre could negatively affect cotton quality.
Ornamental plant breeding
Dariusz Malinowski is project leader of the Forage Systems Program. His research focuses on adaptation of forage crops to drought stress and management of forages in semi-arid environments of the Texas Rolling Plains. He also conducts breeding programs of ornamental plants – winter-hardy hibiscus and has licensed several varieties for commercial evaluation.
The Ogallala aquifer provides 6.9 million acres of irrigated cropland in Texas. This accounts for almost 15 percent of the total irrigated acreage in the U.S., making conservation of ground water resources vital to the agricultural economy.
Dr. Zhuping Sheng, along with researchers at Texas Tech University and others from AgriLife Research, are working to develop a policy assessment tool for the Texas High Plains. This policy will guide impacts of water conservation policies and strategies to manage ground water resources.
Improvement of crop irrigation systems
Thomas H. Marek and Qingwu Xue have teamed with crop genetics faculty to help farmers achieve advanced productivity and higher water-use efficiency than ever before. Their efforts underscore significantly less groundwater resources being pumped from the Ogallala Aquifer. These Amarillo researchers have evaluated new drought-tolerant corn hybrids at three irrigation levels in the region. Multi-year field studies indicated that it is possible to maintain 200 bushels per acre of yield at an irrigation level of 75% of evapotranspiration (ET) requirement with some new hybrids. This irrigation level can allow water savings over 20%.
Water use efficiency
The agronomy program team led by Dr. Xuejun Dong is collaborating with researchers at College Station, Lubbock, and Amarillo in developing novel phenotyping tools to identify crop shoot/root traits with improved water use efficiency under different management regimes. To assist precision irrigation, a crop growth model is being developed for integration into an irrigation control platform teamed with TEES researchers.
Algae for Fuel
The Pecos Algae Research and Development Faculty is working to develop algae growth and harvesting techniques that can be commercially scaled and economically replicated in the Southwest desert regions of the U.S. The team has already seen success. In 2013 they developed a process for harvesting algae that reduced cost of lipid production by 30%.
Wheat-breeding boosts economy nationally
The AgriLife Research wheat-breeding team has been recognized for its varieties, which continue to dominate wheat production in the Great Plains. These wheat varieties are estimated to add more than $200 million annually to the US economy. One drought-tolerant wheat also makes a stronger dough.
Zebra chip on potatoes
Charles M. Rush and Ada Szczepaniec are teaming up to help potato producers understand and mitigate the effects of the zebra chip pathogen, Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum, which is vectored by the potato psyllid. More than five years of research has resulted in no devastating outbreaks, but ongoing research is looking at the development of resistance to one of the key insecticide modes – neonicotinoids – currently being used to battle the psyllid, and thus the disease.
Mesquite & prickly pear control
The Vernon center has provided the most complete published data set in the world related to summer prescribed burning for mesquite and prickly pear cactus control.
Feedlot emissions and air quality
Charles M. Rush and Ada Szczepaniec work on a project that successfully demonstrated the use of automated digital imaging when followed by image processing and interpretation to visually estimate ground-level feedlot dust concentrations.
Environmental quality & resilience
Researchers at the Amarillo Center, including Ken Casey and Brent Auverman, are using innovative and emerging technologies – including including remote sensing platforms, open path optical sensors and low-cost community-based monitoring approaches – to monitor air quality and atmospheric emissions. By using data collection tools, the researchers can monitor carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ammonia, and fine particulars to better inform regulatory agencies and policy makers.
Small grain improvements
Amarillo researchers Shuyu Liu and Jackie Rudd are working to develop superior wheat germplasm lines that can tolerate multiple stresses, using conventional and molecular breeding. Modern cultivars generally have a higher yield and more efficiently use available natural resources. They also have greater resistance to insects and pathogens such as wheat streak mosaic virus, thus reducing the need for chemical applications.
The goal of the TAM wheat breeding program is to design small grain cultivars focused on hard winter wheat for specific adaption areas and management programs in Texas. These cultivars have greater resistance to pathogens and insects, thus reducing the need for chemical applications.
Stormproof and disease resistant cotton
Lubbock Center is arguably most known for developing stormproof cotton and the original mechanical cotton stripper. These discoveries changed the area from a ranching to farming region, and influenced cotton production across the world. Researchers continue to develop new cotton germplasm with improvements such as resistance to disease and pests.