The Texas A&M AgriLife Research Center at Dallas is located in the heart of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. The Dallas Center is uniquely focused on improving the sustainability of urban and suburban living through responsible use of natural resources. Research areas include sustainability of urban environments through new water-efficient turfgrass, technologies for low-impact development, stormwater management, water conservation, and urban food production.
Key Research Areas
- Turfgrass breeding
- Resource-efficient turf and ornamental plants
- Water needs in urban settings
- How to remediate or reconstruct urban soils
- Management practices for plant diseases and insect pests
- Innovations in plant breeding for water efficiency and drought tolerance
Commercialization of New Turfgrass Varieties – A new drought and cold tolerant St. Augustine grass called TamStar is licensed to more than a dozen turfgrass producers in Texas, and is currently in pre-licensing evaluation by producers in Georgia and Australia. A new hybrid bluegrass suitable for southern climates (DALBG 1201) is in pre-licensing evaluation by a major turf producer in Georgia. New cold-tolerant zoysiagrass lines co-developed by the Dallas Center and Kansas State University (KSUZ 1201, KSUZ 0802) continues to undergo pre-licensing evaluation by 11 different companies in 7 different states. KSUZ 1201 and KSUZ 0802 have been released.
Leadership in Turf Genomics – Dallas Center scientists developed the first sequence-tagged high-density genetic map of any warm season turfgrass. The zoysiagrass map (accepted for publication in Plant Journal) provides an essential genomic tool for gene tagging and marker-assisted selection for accelerated development of significantly improved varieties, and serves as the foundation for sequencing the zoysiagrass genome and for conducting comparative genomics analysis among grasses.
This research will speed the development of more water efficient, heat and cold tolerant, and disease resistant turfgrass varieties. Using genotyping by sequencing for diversity analysis of zoysiagrass varieties, the scientists also discovered that several current commercial zoysiagrasses, thought to be different varieties, are actually identical genotypes. This new approach demonstrates a novel scheme for protecting intellectual property of new plant varieties.
Water University – Over the last year, the Dallas Center’s Water University program has reached more than 500,000 individuals with courses on water protection and conservation. The team has led North Texas residents in the construction of roughly 5,000 rain barrels through classes offered at the Center and in partnering municipalities. A video on rain barrel construction in 2016 has reached more than 2.5 million viewers on Facebook. Barrels constructed in North Texas alone alongside the Water University team are estimated to collect roughly 7.6 million gallons of water annually, eliminating about 7,000 pounds of non-point source pollution, and saving their homeowners a total of about $60,000 per year on water bills.
The Water University Team also serves on numerous government and private boards including the Texas Water Development Board Water Conservation Advisory Council, the Fort Worth Water Department Water Conservation Advisory Council, and the Sustainability Committees for Frito Lay and DFW Airport. The Team’s efforts have been recognized from numerous state and national awards from entities including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The pineapple genome and drought resistance insight – Pineapple is a delicious tropical fruit, but it also represents a good model for evolutionary and genetic research into adaptation to dry habitats and the crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) photosynthetic strategy. Plants with CAM photosynthesis have high water use efficiency and drought tolerance, and pineapple provides a key evolutionary reference point for the cereal genome lineage.
Dr. Qingy Yu at the Dallas center, and her colleague Dr. Ray Ming at the University of Illinois, led an international team of researchers who developed an impressive, high quality genome assembly for pineapple and its wild relative. The genome is an important resource for careful analysis of the CAM metabolic pathway, which will benefit the study of other crops through better understanding of drought resistance and water utilization. Dr. Yu’s article was featured on the cover of Nature Genetics, and accompanied by a Nature News article explaining the work’s broader significance.
Urban Water Program expansion – The Dallas Center Urban Water Program includes professionals in water quality, water use efficiency and watershed planning. The program has built strong working relationships and partnerships with local governments, state and federal agencies, corporations and other entities and has become a regional and state wide resource for agencies and municipalities looking for innovative ways to conserve and protect water resources. Among their many activities in 2015, the Program trained 3,900 individuals and constructed 4,280 rain barrels through classes offered at the Center. Through this training, the program collected 7.6 million gallons of water, and saw a reduction of 7,000 pounds of non-point source pollution and saving stakeholders $60,000 on their water bills.
The Program conducted 264 educational programs dealing with water use efficiency, landscape water conservation and irrigation efficiency reaching 14,280 homeowners , saving 7.8 million gallons of water per year. They also reached 5,912 youth through 60 youth-targeted water conservation events, and partnered with Tarrant Regional Water District to design and install a 16,000 sq ft demonstration area at their headquarters facility. The demonstration showcases efficient irrigation and landscape design, plant selection, storm water drainage, rain gardens, mock home elevations, pervious concrete, and proper turf selection and maintenance. Among the many awards received by the Program in 2015 was recognition as EPA’s WaterSense Promotional Partner of the Year.
Improved sustainability of DFW Airport – DFW Airport is the third busiest airport in the world, covering 27 square miles in the heart of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Water, turf and horticulture experts from the Texas A&M AgriLife Research & Extension Center at Dallas were invited to assist DFW Airport in creating a comprehensive Sustainability Management Plan.
The resulting plan enabled DFW Airport to become the first North American airport to be recognized by the Airport Carbon Accreditation Program at Level 3, the highest level awarded to any airport to date (there are only 4 levels; 1, 2, 3, and 3+). Also as a result of the Sustainability Management Plan, DFW Airport became the first airport to be recognized fly the EPA with a Climate Leadership Award for its efforts in setting aggressive carbon reduction goals.
About half of the drinking water in Texas is used to irrigate turfgrass in home lawns, corporate landscapes, golf courses, and parks. The Dallas Center works to improve efficiency of plants that use this water. Researchers are working to breed new, multi-use turf varieties that need less water and are more tolerant of drought, cold, and poor soil condition. So far they have released 17 varieties, including new varieties of Zoysiagrass, the most environmentally friendly turfgrass variety.
Alternative Resources for Urban Water Conservation
The growing lack of freshwater – due to high urban population growth in Texas – is certainly a challenge. Scientists at the Dallas Center are exploring the use of alternative water sources such as graywater, air conditioning condensate, and rainwater. Scientists have found that it takes little effort to gather these alternative sources and can reduce demand on potable public water supplies. They are collecting data from Texas and Qatar, and will make recommendations for design, sizing, distribution, and reuse.
Fresh food in urban areas with limited produce
Dallas Center researchers are working develop new plant varieties that can grow in controlled environments such as greenhouses and vertical farms. They are also studying fundamental genetic and biochemical mechanisms that control efficient use of plant resources. This development could allow for fresh fruits and vegetables that are essential to human health, but hard to produce in the limited space of growing urban communities.
State of the Art Laboratories — The laboratories of the Texas A&M AgriLife Research Center at Dallas comprise an array of shared-use, state-of-art equipment for molecular biology and genetics research. The Dallas labs also house centralized computation facilities for high-end processing of massive amounts of genomic sequence data. A new 60,000 sq ft state-of-the-art laboratory building is scheduled for construction in 2017.
Field Research Facilities — More than 12 acres of field research on the Dallas Center Campus is equipped with precision irrigation systems that enable researchers to accurately study urban plant responses to a range of biotic and abiotic stresses.
Research Greenhouses — An expansive greenhouse system on campus at the Dallas Center houses a germplasm collection of hundreds of unique plants from all over the world. These are utilized in the Center’s breeding programs to develop new and improved environmentally friendly varieties for sustainable production. These facilities also allow for research on the response of plants to varying levels of biotic and abiotic stresses.