Dr. Raul I. Cabrera
Ornamental plant production in nurseries-greenhouses-sod farms and their utilization in urban landscapes, collectively known as the green industry, rank second in Texas agricultural output (contributing $18 billion and >200,000 jobs in 2011). These activities are distinguished for being intensively managed, requiring massive inputs of water, fertilizers, chemicals and labor. Given conditions of dwindling water supplies, poor-quality, severe droughts and competition with other activities, these industries face severe water shortages and challenging pressures to increase water use efficiency and reductions in pollution potential. Research and educational activities and efforts are thus needed to deal with these challenges while sustaining the economic outputs and societal benefits derived from green industry activities.
- Optimizing rose crop nutrition & productivity. Support: J.H. Hill Found., Gr. Chia, I.C. Flower Grower Assn.
- Water savings through rainwater harvesting and adapted plants. Support: Wintergarden G-water C.D.
- Evaluate herbicide phytotoxicity on ornamental plants. Support: Scotts Company LLC (R&D).
- Assessment of water use in native landscape trees. Support: TDA-Specialty Crop Program (Submitted)
- Stabilization of stream banks with vegetation. Support: TSSWCB Grant Program (Pre-approved).
- Effects of graywater irrigation in ornamentals. Submit proposals to TNLA, LCRA, SAWS, EAA, TWDB.
Irrigated agriculture in Texas is estimated at 6.2 million acres (and decreasing), with a yearly usage of 9.5 million acre-feet of water. While no such figures are available for green industry activities, we estimate (roughly) that there are some 1.7 million acres of irrigated landscapes,parks, and golfcourses in the state, and could be using up to 4 million acre-feet of water annually (using 3X more water per acre than irrigated ag). An overarching goal of the ornamental horticulture program is to produce research results that will increase water and fertilizer use efficiency in green industry activities which, even if modest, will yield significant water savings and reduced pollution potential. Another thrust of this program is to evaluate plant materials and management practices that sustain urban landscapes with minimal inputs, and under stressful conditions (salinity, drought, pH, temperature, pests), while sustaining their aesthetic and functional roles. Utilization of native and resource-efficient plants, and non-traditional, poor-quality irrigation waters (saline, reclaimed, recycled, graywater) are integral to these efforts.
OPPORTUNITIES & COLLABORATIONS
• Generate partnerships and linkages with key collaborating and potential funding entities such as local- and state agencies overseeing, managing or regulating water for urban and landscape uses.
• Synergize existing research and extension programs in ornamentals thru the central region and the state. The Uvalde Center is placed within the Austin-San Antonio (4 million) & Laredo-Brownsville (1.5 million) urban corridors, comprising ~20% of Texas’ population, being areas significantly afflicted by water issues.
• Exploit venues for the integration of local and statewide disciplinary expertise in ornamental horticulture across the A&M System and local-state agencies, as well as green industry and other key groups.