Research

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 melons through deficit irrigation applied with subsurface drip systems.  They have also demonstrated the benefits of adopting water-conserving practices (75% ETc) with growth stage-crop coefficients for short-day onions.

Researchers developed integrated crop strategies – from transplanting to harvest – for artichokes, 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 artichokes in the United States.

The goal of Uvalde strategies for integrating irrigation and low-tillage practices for field, forages 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. These activities could use up to 5 million acre-feet of water annually, which is rapidly approaching usage by irrigated agriculture in the state. A new initiative at the Uvalde Center is focused on identifying native and adapted plant species with low water requirements that have distinctive traits for commercial use in sustainable urban landscapes, as well as other potential uses for rangeland restoration and reclamation, forage production and improve feed and shelter for wildlife. This includes research into the potential use of cold tolerant spineless cactus as a drought reserve forage for the livestock industry in more northern areas of Texas.

 Managing wildlife and natural resources

Researchers work with landowners to develop new paradigms in wildlife management and to optimize habitat management for production of trophy white-tailed deer, abundant bobwhite quail and conservation of endangered species, while maintaining biodiversity of other wildlife species. Collaboration on animal health issues with Texas A&M Veterinary School aid agriculture by revealing that deer cannot transmit tick fever to cattle and identifying strategies to reduce disease transfer from feral hogs to valuable wildlife and livestock. At the interface with plant production and water saving strategies, wildlife researchers also examine rainwater harvesting for wildlife food plots and maintenance of native plant gardens to support attractive urban wildlife.

 Research Impacts

  • The finding that deer cannot transmit tick fever to cattle saved $2 billion per year by eliminating the requirement to impose quarantine restrictions on deer hunting and fund a costly wildlife control program.
  • A new method for aging deer is helping to make Texas a leader in the valuable trophy deer production industry.
  • Improving the genetics and water conservation strategies for vegetable crops (melon, watermelon, artichoke, hot and sweet pepper, onion, cabbage, leafy greens) in Southwest Texas will increase profitability and provide more attractive products with better flavor, taste, and antioxidant potential.
  • Integrating deficit irrigation strategies (75% ETc) with specific crop coefficients and improved cultural strategies, can improve water use efficiency (up to 25%) in cool season leafy vegetables.
  • The ornamental program at the center is helping green industries to improve water-use efficiency through emergent research on native and adapted plants using graywater and other alternative irrigation sources.

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