The Winter Garden and South Central Region of Texas spans from Stephenville and San Angelo (central) to Uvalde (south). The climate in these areas is characterized by hot, humid summers and generally mild to cool winters. Research in the region focuses on agricultural systems, water, farming practices, and pest management.
To combat the arid conditions, water conservation research and alternative farming practices is important for both San Angelo and Uvalde. The area has experienced water savings by use of deficit irrigation with subsurface drip systems and irrigating at night. Using biodegradable plasticulture mulch helps soils maintain moisture and degrades 100% after 12 months, and cover crops reduces wind erosion.
Researchers in Stephenville have developed strategies to increase waste-management efficiency. The strategy involves on-dairy phosphorus recycling using year-round forage cultivation and reduced phosphorus excretion in diets. This saves dairy producers $900M in land purchase or lease costs and reduces phosphorus pollution.
- Uvalde Center developed hydroponic cropping systems that increase leaf lettuce yields by more than 40% and water savings by 90%.
- San Angelo researchers are selecting goats that ovulate earlier in the spring to enhance the production of year-round goat meat and allow producers to benefit from the almost 20% higher prices in the low volume winter months.
- The region’s prairie restoration efforts have increased the demand for native plant species from Texas seed companies, providing sustainable alternatives for the revegetation and restoration of roadside vegetation.
- Researchers at the San Angelo Center have developed innovative management strategies using prescribed fire and goat browsing to reduce the cost of juniper control and provide a savings of over $100 per acre for brush control.
- Stephenville scientists developed an in vitro embryo production and transfer system to improve summer fertility in commercial or dairy cows, this advance save the industry $40 million annually.
- Stephenville center researchers developed strategies to increase waste management efficiency by 45% through on-dairy phosphorus recycling, which saves dairy producers $900 in land purchase or lease costs.
- Genetic testing by Uvalde scientists shows that a deer cannot transmit tick fever to cattle. This discovery saves the Texas deer hunting industry $2 billion.
- Efforts are underway at the Uvalde center to launch a statewide initiative on reusing graywater for irrigating urban areas with the goal of generation water savings of at least 8%.
- Uvalde research shows that integrating irrigation and tillage practices to increase the efficiency of cropping systems reduced crop water use and irrigation demands by 20%.
Water conservation and irrigation strategies
Uvalde Center researchers, Drs. Dan Leskovar and Vijay Joshi, have demonstrated a 36% water savings in Tuscan and cantaloupe melon through deficit irrigation applied with subsurface drip systems. Leskovar and Joshi have also demonstrated the benefits of adopting water-conserving practices (75% crop evapotranspiration) with growth-stage crop coefficients for short-day onion.
Water efficiency in green industry
A new initiative at the Uvalde Center is focused on identifying native and adapted plant species with low water requirements. These plant species have great potential for commercial use in sustainable urban landscapes, rangeland restoration and reclamation, forage production, and improved food and shelter for wildlife. Drs. Xuejun Dong and Vjiay Joshi are also researching the potential to use cold-tolerant spineless cactus as a drought-reserve forage for the livestock industry in more northern areas of Texas.
Non toxic methods to control red ant populations
Red fire ants are a chronic pest in Texas that present medical, animal health, and agricultural challenges. Chemical controls are the most common used method for managing red ant colonies. Scientists at the Stephenville Center are studying two common pathogens and viruses that have co-evolved with ants. Through hormone interaction and allowing the co-evolved pathogens to dominate, it may be possible to biologically control the growth of the red ant population. This non toxic method could be useful in residential area.
Specialty crop artichoke
The Uvalde Center is also credited with developing strategies from transplanting to harvest of artichoke, a new specialty crop for Texas.