Texas A&M AgriLife Research works to provide objective, evidence-informed, scientific information about food supplies, including an expansive array of fruits and vegetables. Texas A&M AgriLife Research conducts these studies for the benefit of all Texans — to improve the health and lives of our citizenry, and to help producers supply high-quality, nutritious foods. Texas A&M AgriLife Research faculty continue to advance the science of nutritious, economically sustainable fruits and vegetables.
FAO’s International Year of Fruits and Vegetables
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ International Year of Fruits and Vegetables is a unique opportunity to raise awareness on the important role of fruits and vegetables in human nutrition, food security and health and as well in achieving UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Texas A&M AgriLife Research scientists at the Vegetable and Fruit Improvement Center, Bryan-College Station, are using a “table-to-farm” approach that considers consumer preference at the dinner table to create a safer, healthier and more sustainable melon supply chain in the U.S. The center has conducted extensive studies and surveys showing that looks, taste and nutritional value are the three main factors consumers consider when purchasing melons. So, the team is focusing its melon-breeding efforts on satisfying consumer demand. Specifically, the team seeks to develop new melon cultivars with enhanced nutrition and flavor.
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Carlos Avila, Ph.D., a Texas A&M AgriLife Research associate professor with the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Department of Horticultural Sciences and his team at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Weslaco are enhancing the quality of nutrient-dense spinach. They use a market-driven approach with key stakeholders, incentivizing and promoting spinach production and consumption in Texas. Collaboration with stakeholders at different stages of the value chain results in improved leafy green products that satisfy producer-to-consumer standards and tastes. Enhanced spinach cultivars must be better-looking, tastier and increasingly nutritious, with a longer shelf life, augmented resistance to environmental threats in the field, greater yield and, thus, increased commercial value. Avila’s research team discovered that increasing the vitamin C content in spinach improves agronomic performance and provides a more nutrient-dense, healthier product.
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A new line of tomatoes produced by Texas A&M AgriLIfe Research are more flavorful and more nutritious; firm, with a longer shelf-life; visually appealing and resistant to “yellow shoulder,” a disorder that causes discolorations under the skin that reduce fruit quality and consumer acceptance. Carlos Avila, Ph.D., an associate professor with the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Department of Horticultural Sciences, and his team at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Weslaco, developed this new cultivar and believe it has the potential to revolutionize the tomato fresh consumption industry.
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Texas A&M AgriLife team seeking ‘holy grail’ tomatoes
Tastier, tougher tomatoes and spinach being developed for South Texas
Celebrity tomato latest Texas Superstar
AgriLife helps Texas tomato producers make better connections through grafting
Dark sweet cherries could be next in line for the title of “superfood.” Giuliana Noratto, Ph.D., Texas A&M AgriLife Research associate research scientist in the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Department of Food Science and Technology, Bryan-College Station, studies the nutritional benefits of these pitted fruits, which might include offsetting risks associated with obesity and even modulating breast cancer tumor growth in mice.
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A Texas A&M AgriLife Research study has led to the discovery of the first curative and preventive bacteriophage treatment against the pathogen Xylella fastidiosa, which causes the deadly Pierce’s disease in grapevines. Bacteriophage therapy, a precision treatment of bacterial infections, uses viruses that infect and kill the bacterium. It is a promising alternative to antibiotics for treating infections in humans, animals and plants. The development of a bacteriophage treatment for Pierce’s disease was led by Carlos Gonzalez, Ph.D., professor in the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology and member of the Texas A&M AgriLife Center for Phage Technology in collaboration with Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, approved the treatment. Its commercial name, XylPhi-PD, is registered with the California Department of Pesticide Regulation, CDPR, and approved for use in organic production by the Organic Materials Review Institute, OMRI. The product is marketed in the U.S. by Otsuka subsidiary A&P Inphatec, LLC.
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Organic Specialty Crop Development
At the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Vernon, Waltram Ravelombola, Ph.D, assistant professor in the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, leads a new program to develop specialty crops suitable to organic systems in Texas and beyond. His team develops plants with stronger yields, higher nutritional value and better tolerance to stresses like heat, drought, salinity and diseases. Ravelombola focuses on cowpeas for multiple uses, lentils, legumes, guar and organic barley. He is now establishing research trials at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Vernon.
More about Ravelombola’s work in AgriLife Today
Urban Controlled Environment Agriculture: Vertical Farming
At the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Dallas, Genhua Niu, Ph.D., professor in the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Department of Horticultural Sciences, has written the book on large-scale agriculture in controlled environments. That book is Plant Factory: An Indoor Vertical Farming System for Efficient Quality Food Production. Niu’s urban horticulture program at the center conducts studies on the sustainability of growing plants in controlled environments at scale. Her team develops technologies and management practices for efficient use of electricity, water, fertilizers and other resources in large-scale controlled environment agriculture.
More about Niu’s work in AgriLife Today
More about Fruits and Vegetables
Kevin Crosby, Ph.D., Texas A&M AgriLife Research professor with the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Department of Horticultural Sciences, Bryan-College Station works with a team of scientists across Texas, New Mexico and Arizona to develop agronomic technologies and practices for hot peppers to minimize the impact of environmental stress and reduce production costs. These measures can also help reverse the downward trend the U.S. hot pepper industry experienced in recent years due to increased competition from imported peppers. These new practices help optimize production, product quality, marketing efficiency and profitability to boost the industry and create a sustainable supply of safe, high-quality peppers so growers can remain competitive.
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BetaSweet, the maroon carrot developed by Leonard Pike, Ph.D., former Texas A&M AgriLife Research horticulturist and director of the Vegetable and Fruit Improvement Center, Bryan-College Station, is one of AgriLife Research’s most notable vegetables. Developed in 1989 and released to commercial markets in 1998, the carrot was developed to be a novelty in the home gardens of Aggies, but researchers soon realized that its nutritional benefits and cancer-preventing properties made it an ideal commodity for markets across the U.S. Sometimes referred to as a purple carrot, BetaSweet is still a popular vegetable enjoyed for its flavor, health, nutrition and presentation. It is available at specialty grocers and is the focus of discussion on gourmet, cooking and nutrition-focused websites.
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Released in 1983 and named after its planting month and date, Oct. 15, the onion known by producers simply as the 1015 was developed by Leonard Pike, Ph.D., former Texas A&M AgriLife Research horticulturist and director of the Vegetable and Fruit Improvement Center, Bryan-College Station. The large, sweet and disease-resistant onion is still renowned by farmers in the Rio Grande Valley and by consumers nationwide. The Y in the name stands for yellow. It is especially loved by consumers due to its low level of pyruvate, which causes the eyes to water when the onion is sliced. Bhimu Patil, Ph.D., leads the Vegetable and Fruit Improvement Center today and builds on Pike’s legacy by continuing onion research at the center.