The Texas A&M AgriLife Center at Corpus Christi, TX is located in the Texas Coastal Bend. Researchers at the Corpus Christi Center focus on problems facing south Texas agriculture and the protection of its natural resources.
Research efforts focus on innovations for sustainability of the agriculture and livestock industry of Texas and beyond. The center includes satellite stations laboratories at Flour Bluff and Beeville.
Key Research Areas
- Animal Reproductive Physiology
- Conservation tillage and use of legumes as cover crops
- Plant Pathology
- Crop drought tolerance
- Remote sensor for phenotyping and precision management
- Microalgae Research for Biofuels and valued added co-products
- Bee Synch I and II has dramatically accelerated prospects for synchronization of ovulation and adoption of fixed-time artificial insemination by producers of Brahman-influenced cattle in the southern regions. Bee Synch II reduces the number of injections and cost of drugs (by about $5.00/head).
- Reduced tillage farms save up to $40 per hectare annually in input costs and legume cover crop grown for livestock diversify income and provides an additional $75/acre in N fertilizer equivalent annually.
- In south Texas, outreach efforts helped control the sugarcane aphid covering about 400,000 acres of sorghum, at an estimated cost of control of $5 million and a benefit from protecting harvest of $30 to $60 million in south Texas in 2014.
- The microalgae team working with Sandia National Laboratories developed procedures to advance the use of a low-cost, recycling nutrient, struvite, for the production of microalgae biomass for biofuels.
- In cooperation with Texas A&M University Corpus Christi, AgriLife Corpus Christi assembled a remote sensing research team to develop phenotyping and precision management tools.
- Corpus Christi’s research on fungus has led to the discovery of the best resistant genes for hybrid grain sorghum grown in the region.
Enhancing reproductive efficiency in livestock
Gary Williams, Ph.D., Professor, Animal Science
Bee Synch, developed at the Beeville Research Station, has been named in the National Beef Sire Directory as the method of choice for synchronization of ovulation in fixed-time artificial insemination (AI) of Bos indicus-influenced cattle (2014, 2015). Currently termed Bee Synch I, this protocol has dramatically accelerated prospects for synchronization of ovulation and adoption of fixed-time Al by producers of Brahman-influenced cattle in the southern regions of the U.S. This enables the use of the top Al sires which can increase individual beef carcass values of progeny by more than $400 each.
We have now developed Bee Synch II. In early trials, the latter appears to produce results similar to Bee Synch I but reduces the number of injections and cost of drugs (by about $5.00/head) needed to accomplish the same goals. With the current total economic cost of developing replacement heifers approaching $1,500/heifer, the ability to program the timing of puberty and first pregnancy is one of the most critical components of efficient beef production.
Conservation tillage and use of legumes in south Texas
Jamie Foster, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Soil and Crop Sciences
Conservation tillage: Conservation tillage and legume integration is novel in south Texas and will aid in conservation of soil security, water savings, and enhanced soil structure and nutrient profile, to ensure the continuation of agriculture production and rural economic sustainability for future Texans. Increased water savings of conservation tillage increases cotton and sorghum yields versus conventional tillage in drought years. Legume cover crops grown for livestock diversify income and provides $75/acre in N fertilizer equivalent annually.
Use of warm-season legumes: Use of the wide variety of warm-season legumes adapted to south Texas has the potential for pulse/grain, hay, grazing, and as bioenergy crops. Legumes increase resource use efficiency by providing nitrogen and soil stabilization to perennial warm-season grasses grown for bioenergy or livestock. On ongoing project evaluates germplasm of black-eyed peas, which are less susceptible to iron chlorosis and adapted to south Texas. This crop will produce pulse for domestic and international markets and provide fodder for livestock production or crop residue, which is nitrogen rich.
Developing sustainable cropping system methods
Michael Brewer, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Entomology
Sugarcane aphid management on grain sorghum (rapid research and technology transfer response to an invasive species): An experiment that compared the effectiveness of insecticide sprays on sorghum helped develop a threshold of 50 to 125 aphids per leaf, pre-head emergence. When growers sprayed at the time aphid counts were at threshold, they were able to reduce aphid populations to manageable levels, while only slightly reducing predator populations.
In south Texas, outreach efforts helped control the sugarcane aphid covering about 400,000 acres of sorghum, at an estimated cost of control of $5 million and a benefit from protecting harvest of $30 to $60 million in south Texas in 2014. In 2015, early rains and aphid control by beneficial insects assisted in control, and growers using the threshold were able to reduce the number of treated acres further without economic loss of grain. Savings were at least doubled in 2015, based on prevented losses using targeted insecticide use with assistance from rainfall and beneficial insects.
Drought tolerant research
Carlos Fernandez, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Soil and Crop Science
Studies on crop drought tolerance began in 2010 upon the construction of the Drought Tolerance Laboratory. Cotton drought tolerance studies were conducted in collaboration with Drs. Jane Dever and Steve Hague, AgriLife’s cotton breeders. Other limited studies included sugarcane transgenic genotypes in collaboration with Drs. Erik Mirkov and Jorge Da Silva. Drought tolerant genotypes have been identified with these studies. For example, two cotton genotypes showed higher water-use-efficiency (WUE) as a result of higher biomass partition into seed cotton, and two transgenic sugarcane varieties also showed higher WUE efficiency as they lower water loss but maintained biomass production. The 2015’s studies conducted with sugarcane are still in progress, while those with cotton are being analyzed.
Conducting research on mariculture and production of feeds & biofuels from algae
Anthony Siccardi, Ph.D., Associate Research Scientist
The microalgae team has continued their research in conjunction with Sandia National Laboratories and Open Algae on a DOE funded project to advance the use of a low-cost, recycled nutrient known as struvite, for the production of microalgae biomass. Extended production trials have continued to demonstrate that microalgae grown using struvite as their nutrient source have biomass productivities equivalent to more expensive, non-recycled nutrients.
The microalgae team has optimized the application of struvite, which has led to a 15% reduction in struvite addition without a decrease in production, thereby further reducing production costs. Additional nutrient optimization has produced microalgae biomass from mixed algae cultures with protein content near 50%. The high protein content of this microalgae biomass makes it a strong contender as a sustainable protein substitute for fishmeal. Growth trials using the teams high protein mixed microalgae biomass as a fishmeal replacement in marine and freshwater fish diets is scheduled to begin early next year.
Development of an unmanned aircraft system for plant breeding, research and precision management of agriculture systems
Murilo Maeda, Ph.D., Assistant Research Scientist
Researchers at Corpus Christi are developing and linking components of an unmanned aerial system (UAS). The long-term goal of this project is to develop, improve, and deploy unmanned aerial system platforms, advance computational algorithms, and web-based tools to facilitate high throughput phenotyping and precision management of cotton for breeding and field management purposes.
Gary Odvody, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Soil and Crop Sciences
Populations of the endemic sorghum downy mildew fungal pathogen Peronosclerospora sorghi in feral johnsongrass across the upper and lower Coastal Bend of Texas are almost exclusively a single fungicide-sensitive pathotype known since 1980. Fungicide resistant pathotypes of Peronosclerospora sorghi known since 2001 and 2004 in grain sorghum hybrids grown in the upper coastal bend were rare in johnson grass which is a reservoir for Peronosclerospora sorghi survival and spread.
These results identify the best resistance genes for hybrid grain sorghum grown in this region and indicate that seed treatment fungicides once thought lost may again be effective on grain sorghum in the upper coastal bend and may remain effective in the lower coastal bend.