Professor & Center Director
The sales value of vegetable commodities in Texas was estimated at $373 million, ranking 8th in the U.S. (USDA, 2007), representing an estimated economic impact of $900 million. Vegetable crops were grown in 2,348 farms and 73,700 acres (USDA NASS 2011), from which 59,100 were for fresh market and 14,600 acres for processed vegetables (carrots, cucumbers, snap beans and spinach). Based on a recent internal analysis of the vegetable industry in the region (Feb. 2012), critical constraints include water limitations, high temperatures, narrow market windows, commodity prices, competition with CA and MX, food safety, and shortage of skillful labor.
- Developing efficient irrigation and cultural strategies to mitigate drought stress and enhance productivity, quality and phytonutrients of cabbage, broccoli, artichoke and melon crops.
- Determine the spatial and temporal stability of muskmelon and honeydew genotypes (GxE interaction) for phenotypic and quantative traits (Ph.D. student).
- Abscisic acid (ABA) functions in vegetable transplants and its applications to improve transplant quality, desiccation tolerance and marketing period (Ph.D. student).
- Hormonal (6-BA) applications to enhance for fruit set and growth of pepper and melons.
- Crop production and marketing strategies for specialty melons and artichoke in several eco-regions of Texas.
- Evaluation of watermelon performance in a cropping system rotation with field crops under deficit irrigation and strip tillage practices.
Regional/state: Maximize resource (water, nitrogen) use efficiency and management for high valuable commodities and design crops and products with enhanced traits and attractive to consumers.
National: Be recognized as ‘top water research program for specialty crops’, applying water conservation strategies (crop coefficients, deficit irrigation), improved genetics for drought tolerance (root systems, physiological adaptations) and water use efficient species. The breeding and vegetable pepper programs jointly released numerous and more recently (2011) 15 disclosures of jalapeno inbred lines and 3 habanero lines. Improved pepper and melon breeding lines genetic materials could serve as plant parents to develop hybrids for major seed companies.
International: Apply improved horticultural crop production systems to help commercialization of small-scale South African farmers collaborate between, Tshwane University of Technology, and Uvalde-Weslaco AgriLife Research).
Dr. Xuejun Dong
Corn, cotton and wheat together contribute to over $3 billion annually to the Texas economy. In the Winter Garden region of southern Texas, irrigation is essential for sustained production of major agronomic crops. One critical issue of resolving the currently acute conflict in water competition between different social sectors is to increase the efficiency of water use. In agricultural settings, one major focus is the adoption of efficient irrigation management strategies, which needs to be based on a better understanding of soil-crop water relations. In particular, our agronomy group emphasizes important physiological processes and crop traits that are responsible for the regulation of crop water use. This involves a close collaboration with crop breeders, crop physiologists, soil hydrologists and irrigation engineers.
- GEM strategy: Linking drought tolerant traits with water use efficiency to improve productivity of cropping systems in Texas. One of the Co-PI’s. TAMU Seed grant.
- Linking soil hydrology and crop water uptake with a decision support system for optimal irrigation management. Leading PI. TAMU water initiative seed grant (in review
- Research and development of growth model, integrated sensory network, adaptive controller and irrigation platform technology for smart irrigation of specialty crops. One of PI’s. TAMU Water initiative (in review).
- Corn rootworm resistance: On-farm surveys across a south-north transect in Texas. Full proposal in preparation for Monsanto. Co-PI.
- Quantifying mesophyll conductance in winter wheat varieties for increased water use efficiency. Junior Faculty Enhancement grant with ORAU. Pending.
Develop a better understanding of eco-physiological mechanisms regulating crop water use efficiency in irrigated crop production system in the Winter Garden region of southern Texas and beyond. Develop methods for reliable and sensitive quantification of evapotranspiration of selected agronomic crops by considering the dynamic interactions of water supply and water demand for crop transpiration and yield formation. This research creates a foundation for better irrigation management strategy and more efficient crop production under water limited conditions.