Uvalde wheat, vegetable field day sows interest among area producers

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UVALDE – The Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Uvalde recently presented a Combined Wheat and Vegetable Field Day.

The field day was attended by more than 35 people. It included presentations by wheat and vegetable experts, along with a tour of test plots on center grounds.

At the recent field day, producers had an opportunity to get a first-hand look at wheat trails at theTexas A&M Research and Extension Center in Uvalde. (Texas A&M AgriLife Research photo)

At the field day, producers had an opportunity to get a first-hand look at wheat trails being done at the Texas A&M Research and Extension Center in Uvalde. (Texas A&M AgriLife Research photo)

“We wanted to introduce producers and others attending to the research we’ve been doing on these crops,” said Dr. Daniel Leskovar, resident director for the center. “We wanted to focus more specifically on the selection and breeding of drought- and disease-resistant wheat and vegetable varieties for production in and around the Winter Garden area.”

Leskovar said the goal of the field day was to help producers increase their profitability through improved crops that use less water, require fewer chemical inputs, have good yields and produce a quality product with the characteristics consumers find desirable.

Experts from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and Texas A&M AgriLife Research from Amarillo, Fort Stockton and College Station, along with Uvalde center experts, presented on a variety of topics.

“There was a lot of good information about pest and disease management,” said John Brigman, who recently harvested about 400 acres of wheat on his farm north of Uvalde, where he also produces milo, corn and cattle. “I wound up using all that wheat for grazing, but I was interested in finding out more about the best types of wheat to plant for commercial production. I also wanted to find out more about how to fertilize and whether there was any way I might reduce the amount of irrigation.”

Wheat topics included irrigation management, integrated pest management, physiological traits, performance in the Winter Garden, and a market outlook. Other topics included diseases, diagnosis and fungicide use for wheat and vegetables, an update on specialty vegetable crops for the region, and breeding vegetables for water-use efficiency.

Experts say drought, freeze and hail could cause a scramble for wheat seed this fall. (Texas A&M AgriLife Research photo by Kay Ledbetter)

Producers saw the possibilities of wheat and specialty crop production in the region. (Texas A&M AgriLife Research photo)

In his presentation, Dr, Clark Neely, AgriLife Extension specialist in small grains and oilseed at Texas A&M University, noted that wheat is the No. 1 row crop in Texas in terms of acreage, with more than 6 million acres statewide.

“Variety selection is the single most important decision a producer can make,” said Neely, who also gave the “top six picks” for the best wheat varieties to use in South Central and South Texas.

In his ”Wheat Market Situation and Outlook” presentation, Dr. Rob Hogan, AgriLife Extension agricultural economist at the Uvalde center, said worldwide wheat production and consumption continues to increase.

“Here in the state though, almost two-thirds of the spring wheat crop was rated as poor to very poor due to drought,” Hogan said. “But the Climate Prediction Center has elevated the prediction of an El Nino event to a 65 percent probability, which makes for a more favorable forecast for wheat production in 2015.”

The second portion of the field day was a tour of various wheat and vegetable test plots. Dr. Qingwu Xue, AgriLife Research crop stress physiologist in Amarillo, and Dr. Amir Ibrahim, AgriLife Research small grains breeding program leader in College Station, explained the research being done at the center relating to multiple varieties of wheat and using variable irrigation rates.

Two area producers look at the seeds from one of the many wheat varieties being grown at the center. (Texas A&M AgriLife Research photo)

Producers look at the seeds from one of the many wheat varieties being grown at the center. (Texas A&M AgriLife Research photo)

“I was most interested in the wheat rust-resistant varieties of wheat and in how to market the wheat,” said Justin Speer, who this year planted 500 acres of wheat – 300 for harvest and 200 for grazing – on his farm near Uvalde.

Speer said while wheat seems to be an “all or nothing” crop, it is possible to produce about 25 bushels per acre of dryland wheat and may be possible to produce 80-90 bushels per acre of irrigated wheat in South Central Texas.

In the field, Dr. Kevin Crosby, a vegetable breeder in the horticultural sciences department of Texas A&M University, told participants about his work with onions, peppers, melons and other horticultural crops in the region.

Field day participants also got a look at specialty vegetable crop plots, including test plots of artichokes, which Leskovar has been evaluating as a high-value alternative crop for the area, along with specialty melons and other crops.

“We’ve been looking into increasing the drought tolerance of artichokes, and also into the improved production of leafy greens like kale, collards, lettuce and spinach,” Leskovar said.

Dr. Leskovar shows field day participants some of the work the center is doing toward water conservation by  using hydroponics to grow leafy greens. (Texas A&M AgriLife Research photo)

Dr. Leskovar (on left with cap) shows some research being done in the area of water efficiency through hydroponic production of leafy greens. (Texas A&M AgriLife Research photo)

Attendees also saw the work being done by the center in the area of hydroponics.

“We are also examining how leafy greens do in hydroponic production as yet another means by which producers may significantly reduce their water use,” Leskovar said.

At the conclusion of the field day, Dr. David Lunt, associate director for AgriLife Research, told attendees that water was the “single greatest limiting factor” for today’s producer.

“I am glad to see there is so much going on at the Uvalde center toward finding science-based solutions to overcome today’s limitations on agricultural production, especially those relating to water,” he said.

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