South Texas growers moving to more drought-tolerant crops
MONTE ALTO – Some relatively new crops to the area will be discussed alongside the more conventional as growers gather at the Rio Farms Southernpea, Sunflower, Grain Sorghum, Guar, Corn and Sesame Field Day from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 6, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service personnel.
Rio Farms is located at 25601 Farm-to-Market 88 in Monte Alto, some 10 miles north of Expressway 83 in Weslaco.
After registration and a welcome by Rio Farms general manager Dale Murden, participants will take a field tour of research and demonstration studies.
“This field day is unique because of the diversity of crops we’ll be talking about,” said Brad Cowan, an AgriLife Extension agent in Hidalgo County. “The ongoing drought has opened eyes to a lot of new possibilities.”
Among the newer crops to be observed on the tour are sesame and guar, Cowan said.
“These are two crops that have the potential to make it through dry circumstances,” he said. “Sesame can be crushed for its oil but is more widely used in the food industry atop hamburger buns and so forth. Guar is a legume that also does well in arid conditions. It’s getting a new look by growers because of its demand as an ingredient in the mix used for fracking oil and gas wells.”
Guar has long been imported from India for use in the food industry, but its demand by the oil and gas industry is fueling domestic production, he said.
“Southernpeas are not new to the area; it’s been a niche market crop for a long time. Like a lot of the corn we grow here, it’s produced for seed contracts,” Cowan said. “And sunflower, both for its oil and as confectionary, is usually grown on dryland fields, but we’re looking at how well it does with a little help in irrigated fields.”
Dr. Bill Rooney, a Texas A&M AgriLife Research plant breeder in College Station, will discuss new grain sorghum varieties and an update on his research.
Other topics include crops diseases, an insect integrated pest management discussion, new developments in agricultural industries and an update on crop loan and soil conservation program deadlines by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency.
Participants who have a private pesticide applicator’s license can earn three Texas Department of Agriculture continuing education units, two general and one integrated pest management.
The Rio Farms field day is presented in cooperation with AgriLife Extension, USDA, FSA and the Texas Department of Agriculture.
For more information, call 956-262-1387.