UVALDE – The Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Uvalde, 1619 Garner Field Road, will celebrate its 40-year anniversary Dec. 4, said center director Dr. Daniel Leskovar.
From 9-10:30 a.m. in the center auditorium, the public is invited to attend a celebration that will include a brief presentation on the facility’s history, followed by cake and coffee, Leskovar said.
“We also will take time to acknowledge and recognize those with whom we have worked and collaborated over the past four decades, and whose support has made our success possible,” he said. “We have invited producers and civic and business leaders who have helped us over the years, and we want them to know how much we appreciate their assistance and cooperation.”
Leskovar, a vegetable crop physiologist with Texas A&M AgriLife Research, was appointed resident director in 2011. He said currently the 192-acre center has 36 AgriLife Research and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service personnel and student workers.
At a center groundbreaking which took place in late 1971, Texas governor Dolph Briscoe stated in his dedication that the facility would be “the most important thing to happen in Southwest Texas this century.” Others present at the dedication included Dr. Jack K. Williams, then president of Texas A&M University; H.O. Kunkel, dean of agriculture; and various Uvalde-area community leaders.
The center, which now serves 18 Southwest Texas counties, was established in 1972 as a result of an initiative to convert the Crystal City Experiment Station into a new center in the heart of the Wintergarden region, Leskovar said.
“The center was built for the purpose of investigating issues important to the area it served, which included improving use of range resources, wildlife and livestock in the Edwards Plateau and Rio Grande Plain, as well as improving methods and practices for crop production,” Leskovar said.
“Investigation of these issues through research would then be interpreted to area producers and others involved in agriculture by Extension personnel in the form of result demonstrations and other practical applications.”
While much of that original purpose is still served by the center, attention has shifted as the needs and priorities of both the rural and urban areas we serve have changed or evolved over the years, he said.
Leskovar said current research faculty teams and programs at the center are targeted toward horticulture in the areas of vegetable stress physiology, ornamental and nutrition; agricultural systems and forages; wildlife management; and agronomy as it pertains to crop physiology, water and soil science.
Current Extension teams and programs include efforts in fruit and vegetable horticulture, animal and natural resource management, range management and brush control, plant pathology, and 4-H and youth development.
The center also has been involved in the testing of alternative crops, such as artichokes, pomegranates, satsuma oranges, grapes and new types of melons and peppers, to determine their viability for being grown in the region and providing additional income for producers.
“Perhaps the most vital and far-reaching efforts at the center are related to water conservation,” Leskovar said. “About half of area water resources are used for agriculture, particularly crop irrigation, so we are especially interested in finding ways to help producers, consumers and others make the most of this vital but limited resource.”
Leskovar said center water conservation programs focus on plant stress management, improving irrigation practices and technologies, developing more efficient cropping systems, identifying drought-tolerant crops and expanding the use of rainwater harvesting.
“Our research and Extension efforts will continue to develop and change along with the needs of the region and those in both the rural and urban areas we serve,” Leskovar said. “But our basic mission of providing unbiased, valid, useful information, technology and best management practices to help improve the incomes and quality of life for Southwest Texas residents has remained central to us.”