“Our mission is to create knowledge and technology that result in efficient and profitable intensive agricultural management systems while maintaining balance between the environment and social prosperity.”
The Uvalde Center, established in 1972, serves the Texas Winter Garden region, known for irrigated agriculture, with crops such as spinach, potato, cabbage, onion, carrot, melon, watermelon, cucumber, pepper, green bean, lettuce, pecan, and more recently, artichoke. Farmers also cultivate cotton, corn, sorghum, wheat, and forages. Open range beef cattle and goat production are supplemented by wildlife and outdoor recreation enterprises. The center conducts fundamental and applied research and develops technology that results in efficient, sustainable, and profitable agricultural, urban, and ecological management systems while conserving regional underground water resources. These programs are designed to add product market value and create a sustained prosperity for citizens of Southwest Texas and beyond.
Research programs focus on stand establishment of crops under stress conditions; irrigation technologies for agricultural, horticultural, ornamental, and urban landscape systems; deficit irrigation strategies and tillage practices for greater water conservation; physiology and drought tolerance of crops and native plants; development of integrated strategies for conventional and specialty vegetable crops; wildlife habitat management; and conservation of natural biodiversity. The Uvalde Center has special cooperative programs with the following agencies: Texas Center for Applied Technology, Water Conservation Technology Center, Texas Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Program, South Texas Natives–Texas A&M University-Kingsville, Wintergarden Groundwater Conservation District, and the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
Developing better cropping and irrigation strategies for vegetables and fruits
Conserving water during irrigation is an important strategy for sustaining onion and specialty melon productivity in water-limited regions of Texas. Uvalde Center researchers have demonstrated a 36% water savings in Tuscan and cantaloupe melon through deficit irrigation applied with subsurface drip systems. They have also demonstrated the benefits of adopting water-conserving practices (75% crop evapotranspiration) with growth-stage crop coefficients for short-day onion.
Researchers developed integrated crop strategies — from transplanting to harvest — for artichoke, a new specialty crop for Texas. Those strategies are being evaluated in various Texas eco-regions. The AgriLife Research program at the Uvalde Center is the only current public research program addressing artichoke in the United States.
The goal of Uvalde strategies for integrating irrigation and low-tillage practices for field, forage, and horticultural crops is to increase the efficiency of cropping systems by reducing crop water use and irrigation demands by more than 20%.
Improving stand establishment and crop performance
Methods of applications of the plant hormone abscisic acid (ABA) are being developed in nursery conditions to enhance drought tolerance and condition vegetable transplants to better withstand post-transplanting field stresses.
Improving water-use efficiency in the Texas green industry
Texas land occupied in green industry activities such as plant nurseries and greenhouses, landscaping, and urban forestry is estimated at 1.5 million acres.