Developing better cropping and irrigation strategies for specialty crops
The center’s Vegetable Physiology Team has developed integrated strategies — from transplanting to harvest — for artichoke, a new specialty crop for Texas. The team is also researching hydroponic management strategies by manipulating the nutrient solution, monitoring the environmental conditions to reduce tip-burn and bolting, and by screening Bibb and romaine lettuce cultivars that are better adapted to protected environments. Working with faculty at the Weslaco Center, Uvalde researchers are investigating an innovative commercial lignite soil amendment for effectiveness in improving nutrient and water uptake, soil biological activity, and nutritional status of bell pepper under sandy and clay soils.
Researching the role of plant molecular compounds in crop improvement
The Genomics and Metabolomics Team is studying the regulation of amino acid metabolism and genetic variability in selected watermelon parental DNA. Using the facilities at Texas A&M AgriLife Genomics and Bioinformatics Service, the team is studying the genetic information in sesame to understand the molecular mechanisms of drought-stress tolerance. To develop a sustainable resistance to sugarcane aphids in sorghum, the team is collaborating on a project to characterize defense-related genetic and metabolic cues using Nested Association Mapping (NAM) populations.
Improving water-use efficiency through phenotyping
The Agronomy Program Team is collaborating with researchers at College Station, Lubbock, and Amarillo in developing phenotyping tools to identify crop shoot/root traits with improved water-use efficiency under different management regimes. Researchers collaborated with USDA scientists to build a multisensory cart for high-throughput phenotyping and crop traits monitoring. This innovative tool will facilitate screening and selection of improved genotypes with drought- and heat-stress tolerance and high productivity. The team is collaborating with Texas A&M
Engineering Experiment Station researchers to develop a crop growth model for integration into a precision irrigation control platform. They are also working in a multi-year crop rotation program on cotton, corn, wheat, sesame, and millet growth responses to irrigation regimes in southwestern Texas.
- The recirculating hydroponic system showed more than 90% water savings over field conditions for growing leafy greens.
- Deficit irrigation applied with subsurface drip systems yielded 36% and 25% water savings in specialty melons and hot peppers.
- A three-year study showed that integrating strip tillage into a cropping system increased watermelon yields by 15%.
- The Vegetable Physiology Team helped develop a new highquality tomato cultivar, ‘TAM Hot-Ty’, which is heat and virus resistant and produces high yields on a small plant, saving both
space and water.
- Screening efficient sources of organic fertilizers can enhance soil microbial activities, physical and chemical properties, and plant performance, improving profitability.
- Following field trials, three elite TAMU pepper hybrids were identified for commercial licensing by a seed company.
- The vegetable team evaluated 34 experimental TAMU hybrids, 29 elite inbred lines, and 21 commercial cultivars of large, specialty cantaloupe with high sugars and resistance to powdery mildew. Five hybrids were identified for larger commercial trials.