Experts: Challenges, opportunities ahead for Texas agriculture
Writer: Blair Fannin, 979-845-2259, firstname.lastname@example.org
BRYAN – Agriculture has made big strides in the Lone Star State the past 25 years, though there are still challenges and opportunities ahead in producing enough food and fiber for Texans and the U.S., according to experts at the 25th Texas Plant Protection Association conference held recently in Bryan.
Agriculture representatives from industry, Extension and research came together to discuss “A Vision for Texas Agriculture” at the conference held at the Brazos Center, which attracted a record 280 attendees.
Dr. Doug Steele, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service director, told attendees the agency is extending knowledge and providing solutions.
“We think of Texas as urban,” he said. “But we’ve got a great rural population that doesn’t have access to services.
Approximately 80 percent of the Texas population lives near the seven AgriLife Extension and Research centers.
“One of the greatest challenges is translating what we do in rural areas to the urban population.”
He added that the agency’s resources are needed more than ever to solve water, food security and healthcare needs of Texans.
“Those won’t be solved without agriculture,” he said.
Dr. Craig Nessler, director of Texas A&M AgriLife Research, said the agency is grateful for the state and federal funding it receives, though it was not alone in budget reductions in past years. However, Nessler said the agency has established partnerships with companies “built to the interest of our faculty” to carry out cutting-edge research and “assure those breakthroughs are getting to consumers.
“What we try to do is present opportunities for them to get their research funded.”
Nessler said Texas offers a variety of opportunities to “test new things” in conjunction/cooperation with Extension and research centers stationed in a variety of growing regions across the state and with different environments. That makes AgriLife Research attractive to prospective organizations looking to partner in testing potential technology, he said.
Dr. Charles Allen, AgriLife Extension entomologist and integrated pest management program coordinator, San Angelo, provided a historical overview of insects in crops, including the boll weevil.
“In 1892 began a 120-year war with the boll weevil,” Allen said. “(In the beginning) farmers had nothing to fight it with.”
Through the decades came mechanical controls, mechanized harvest equipment and, eventually, insecticides and emulsifiable concentrates. In 1967, Extension integrated pest management began. Allen referenced the work of Edward Knipling and total population management in the 1950s, which eventually led to the boll weevil eradication program beginning in 1983.
Allen said the current challenges are insect and weed resistance to certain chemicals.
“Used to you would see one new pest every 20 years; and now we are seeing one a year. I think that is due to globalization.”
With a projected 9 billion people to feed by 2050, Allen said, “we need to increase the number of people trained in field-specific IPM.”
During the business meeting and awards luncheon, the following received awards:
- Ray Smith, Leadership Award.
- Roy Parker, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service entomologist (retired, Corpus Christi, Norman Borlaug Lifetime Achievement Award.
- Ron Smith, Southwest Farm Press editor, Ag Communications Award.
- Gaylon Morgan, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service state cotton specialist.
- Brandon Ripple, consultant, San Angelo, TPPA Consultant Award.
- Gary Schwarzlose, Bayer Crop Science, San Antonio, TPPA Industry Award.
- Trevor Jones, Texas A&M University, Graduate Student Award.
- Dan Bradshaw, crop consultant, El Campo, first place.
- Gary Bradshaw, crop consultant, Rosenburg, second place.
- Brent Batchelor, third place, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agent, Matagorda County.
Poster contest winners:
- Michael Spiegelhauer, Texas A&M University, first place.
- Christopher Dermody, Texas A&M University, second place.
- Yanjun Guo, Texas A&M University, third place.