Chinese researchers visiting Uvalde center contributing to Texas cotton improvement

UVALDE – Researchers from China are collaborating with a crop eco-physiologist with the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Uvalde toward the goal of improving cotton production in South Central Texas.

From left: Dr. Jianchu Shi of China Agricultural University, Beijing; Dr. Xuejung Dong of Texas A&M AgriLife Research, Uvalde; and Dr. Yongjiang Zhang of Hebei Agricultural University, Baoding.  (Texas A&M AgriLife Research photo)

From left: Dr. Jianchu Shi of China Agricultural University, Beijing; Dr. Xuejung Dong of Texas A&M AgriLife Research, Uvalde; and Dr. Yongjiang Zhang of Hebei Agricultural University, Baoding. The researchers are working together to address issues related to cotton production in Southwest  Texas. (Texas A&M AgriLife Research photo)

“We are working together to gain a better understanding of the water-soil-plant dynamics of cotton production in this region,” said Dr. Xuejun Dong, the Texas A&M AgriLife Research scientist working with three Chinese researchers visiting the center.

“Many challenges we encounter in this area of Texas are similar to those encountered in cotton-producing areas of China,” Dong said. “We invited these researchers to share ideas and connect through similar research interests.”

According to the Texas Department of Agriculture, cotton, corn and wheat crops contribute more than $3 billion annually to the state’s economy.

“In this region of Texas, irrigation is vital to the sustained production of these major agronomic crops,” said Dr. Daniel Leskovar, center director and an AgriLife Research vegetable physiologist. “One of the critical issues we need to address is the water-use efficiency of these crops and how to adopt better irrigation management strategies. To accomplish this, we need a better understanding of soil-crop water relations and the physiological processes and crop traits that regulate crop water use.”

Dong said crops in the Texas Winter Garden and nearby areas are often faced with harsh environmental conditions.

“I am interested in studying the response of cotton plants to limited water use and drought stress,” Dong said.

Dong said this research was also of interest to Dr. Yongjiang Zhang, a plant physiologist from Hebei Agricultural University, who has been at the center since Jan. 20 and will return to China in January 2016.

“We have been investigating water use and root development in cotton crops,” Dong said. “This sort of data will be important toward developing models to determine crop water use over the entire growing season of cotton crops.”

This April, Zhang made a presentation on cotton physiology research being done at Hebei Agricultural University at the Uvalde center’s auditorium. The presentation was attended by dozens of researchers and individuals from the area involved in production agriculture.

Another visiting professor, Dr. Jianchu Shi, a soil physicist from China Agricultural University in Beijing, arrived July 20 and will work at the center until Oct. 8.

“Dr. Shui’s input will be helpful, especially as we have a lot of clay soil in this area, which is also characteristic of soils in many of China’s cotton-producing areas,” Dong said. “It will be important to understand soil differences and how the water gets to the plant roots. That way we can find out if there are better ways to plant crops and to direct the flow to maximize the amount of water getting to the roots.”

Dong said a third researcher, Dr. Lei Zhang, a plant physiologist from the Cotton Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Anyang, Henan Province, will visit Uvalde Center from Nov. 1  through April 2016.

“Lei Zhang is a cotton specialist, and I‘m hoping he can provide some insights that help us take the data we are collecting and develop a more complete model of cotton plant water use throughout the growing season,” he said.  “Adding the soil dimension to the crop-water-soil dynamic will allow us to have a more complete picture of how we might improve cotton yield and reduce the amount of irrigation needed.”

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