New cultivars highlight sugarcane field day set Sept. 19 in Mercedes

Scientists to discuss advances in breeding, management programs

MERCEDES —  The Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Weslaco will host a sugarcane field day Sept. 19 at the center’s annex farm, 9484 Mile 2 West, in Mercedes.

Dr. Jorge da Silva, a Texas A&M AgriLife Research sugarcane breeder at Weslaco, will be among those discussing advances in breeding and management programs at the sugarcane field day Sept. 19 in Mercedes. (AgriLife Communications photo by Rod Santa Ana)

Dr. Jorge da Silva, a Texas A&M AgriLife Research sugarcane breeder at Weslaco, will be among those discussing advances in breeding and management programs at the sugarcane field day Sept. 19 in Mercedes. (AgriLife Communications photo by Rod Santa Ana)

No-cost registration will take place from 8-8:30 a.m., followed by a welcome by Dr. Juan Landivar, center director. The program begins at 8:45 a.m.

“The main purpose of this field day is to show producers advances in our sugarcane breeding and management program, but certainly the public is invited to attend,” Landivar said.

The field day will take place at three stations throughout the sugarcane research field plots at the annex.

Discussions at the first station will be led by Dr. Jorge da Silva, a Texas A&M AgriLife Research sugarcane breeder at Weslaco. Da Silva’s talks will include developments in the sugarcane breeding program, breeding house operations, molecular biology and genomics work, and micropropagation for high-speed multiplication.

“We’re especially proud to tour participants through our modern photoperiodic breeding house,” Landivar said. “This facility was specially designed to condition plants to induce flowering, a process that until now had to be done in Florida and Hawaii.”

Seed from the crosses are planted under the environment and soils of the Lower Rio Grande Valley to evaluate their performance and productivity, he said.

“Our micropropagation facilities then rapidly multiply successful cultivars of disease-free, genetically pure propagation material to growers.”

Da Silva will also provide details on the use of modern molecular techniques and bioinformatics to enhance the development of new cultivars.

At 10 a.m. the field day will move to station 2 where AgriLife Research scientists based at the Weslaco center will discuss cropping systems.

Da Silva will discuss new sugarcane cultivars; Dr. John Jifon, crop physiologist, will discuss agronomic management of sugarcane; Dr. Juan Enciso, irrigation engineer, will discuss irrigation management; and Dr. Don Henne, entomologist, will discuss insect management in sugarcane.

“Cultivars resulting from the programs of Drs. da Silva and Mirkov are evaluated by our cropping systems team made up of Drs. Jifon, Enciso and Henne,” Landivar said. “Their task is to develop a management package to maximize the performance of the new cultivars under field conditions.”

The team will demonstrate new sugarcane cultivars under two row-space configurations and a water management system.

On station 3, Dr. Erik Mirkov, an AgriLife Research virologist and molecular biologist at the center, will discuss his biotechnology research in sugarcane.

“Dr. Mirkov’s biotechnology work will be displayed, featuring genetically improved genotypes tolerant to drought and other environmental stresses,” Landivar said.

Lunch at noon will be sponsored by the Rio Grande Valley Sugar Growers Inc. Speakers and their topics during the lunch hour will be Andy Scott, director of research at Rio Farms Inc. in Monte Alto who will discuss the evaluation of cultivars for the region; and Randy Rolando, Rio Grande Valley Sugar Growers Inc., an update on the sugarcane season.

Attendees are asked to RSVP by calling Lisa Salinas at 956-968-5585, or email analisa.salinas@ag.tamu.edu.

In the event of rain, the field day will be moved to the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at 2415 E. Highway 83, Weslaco.

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