Nearly $1 Million from Permanent University Funds to Support Texas Agriculture Research

COLLEGE STATION -– Like toys and electronics vying for the season’s Hot Picks lists, such are the gadgets of researchers.

Most sought this season? Try a gel documentation system. How about some protein expressing equipment, a centrifuge or an autoclave?

This year, an almost $1 million package will be unwrapped:

To: Texas Agricultural Experiment Station select projects

From: Permanent University Fund.

The monies, created by the Texas Legislature in 1876, come from the sale of oil and gas pumped from more than 2 million acres of state land. The monies are shared by Texas A&M University and University of Texas systems’ institutions. The funds supplement dollars from other sources, such as federal and individual grants. The Experiment Station is an agency of the Texas A&M University System.

Among the projects announced for funding recently are nutrition and food sciences, horticulture and fishery sciences.

“Our scientists are conducting cutting-edge research that is relevant to the citizens of Texas,” said Dr. Elsa Murano, vice chancellor and dean of agriculture and life sciences at Texas A&M. “We are excited to be able to use these state funds to leverage the funding they are able to obtain from external sources and to help them purchase the needed equipment that will keep them competitive in their research programs.”

Murano noted that the money is matched by other funds from the scientists or are used to obtain additional funds to enhance quality and relevance of our research programs. The largest single allocation is $100,000 to purchase hoods, cabinets, an autoclave and other equipment in the newly established nutrition and food sciences laboratory. Growth rooms will be renovated in horticultural sciences for $36,000, the second-largest amount. The renovations of ponds used by fisheries scientists is the third-largest effort at $35,000.

“Renovation of the pond complex is needed to support a variety of teaching and research needs within our department as well as to augment collaborative aquacultural programs with other units within the Texas A&M University System,” said Dr. Delbert Gatlin III, wildlife and fisheries sciences interim department head.

“The aquaculture industry in Texas represents the most rapidly growing segment of agriculture, with recent expansion of production facilities for channel catfish, hybrid striped bass, red drum, tilapia and marine shrimp having a current farm-gate value of over $51.7 million, and with economic multipliers adding $155 million to the state’s economy,” he added.

Funding support for other ongoing research efforts of the Experiment Station include:

– $31,000 for tissue culture facilities. “Our lab uses tissue culture to investigate how human prostate cancers become metastatic,” said Dr. Suma Datta, biochemistry and biophysics researcher in College Station. “By updating our facilities, we will be able to identify the pathways that make prostate cancer malignant and develop diagnostic and prognostic tools to help with more accurate patient diagnoses.” Six other research groups also will benefit from the upgraded facilities, with projects ranging from AIDS research to muscular dystrophy and innate immunity, she said.

– $30,000 for three gel imaging/documentation systems. “Two new imagers will replace two obsolete, 13-year-old gel imaging systems which could not be upgraded,” said Dr. Mary Bryk, biochemistry and biophysics researcher in College Station. “In addition, we will purchase a third imaging system with the capacity to detect light and fluorescence signals from experimental samples. The new imaging systems will positively impact the research of every lab in our department by increasing the overall efficiency of data collection.”

– $25,000 for wheat genomics research enhancement. “Our wheat improvement program develops new varieties for Texas producers,” said Dr. Jackie Rudd, wheat breeder at the Experiment Station in Amarillo. “We’re purchasing equipment that will allow us to do (gene) marker assisted selection which uses DNA technology to increase the breeding efficiency. That means a reduction in the number of years needed to develop a new wheat variety.” Researchers at the Amarillo station are currently using marker assisted selection to breed for aphid resistance, rust resistance and wheat streak mosaic virus resistance. The new equipment will increase their capacity from a few samples a day to a several hundred samples per day, he said.

– $20,000 for ultrasound console and two transducers. “The monies will be used to purchase equipment to help determine uteroplacenta blood flow in an non-invasive way,” said Dr. Tom Spencer, part of a team of Experiment Station animal scientists using a sheep model to study the use of nutriceuticals to combat intrauterine growth retardation in women.

– $20,000 for a silage chopper. “The chopper will be used for conducting research on silage corn and sorghum breeding and variety performance tests as well as biofuel research in the Texas High Plains,” said Dr. Wenwei Xu, corn breeder at the Experiment Station in Lubbock.

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