Bruce McMillan Jr. Foundation increases support of AgriLife Research programs in Overton

OVERTON – Texas A&M AgriLife Research programs in Overton will expand with generous support from a long-time benefactor – the Bruce McMillan Jr. Foundation.

The foundation’s board of directors and the administration of AgriLife Research announced that a 446-acre farm on Texas Highway 135 east of Overton will be incorporated into research and outreach programs of AgriLife Research operations at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Overton. The foundation also will provide funds each year to support the expanded activities.

“The board of directors of the Bruce McMillan Jr. Foundation is very pleased with our continued relationship with Texas A&M AgriLife Research in Overton,” said the board’s president Todd Meadows. “We are beginning a new chapter after nearly 50 years of working together in support of agricultural research. The research and work to be done at this farm will benefit not only the city and citizens of Overton, but also ranchers and farmers in Texas and the southeastern United States.”

Dr. Craig Nessler, director of AgriLife Research in College Station, said the generosity shown by the McMillan Foundation board was greatly appreciated and that he looked forward to the cooperative efforts to expand programs in Overton.

“This generous support represents not only an opportunity to expand important work performed by Texas A&M AgriLife scientists and researchers, but it also highlights the longstanding collaborative relationship between the agency and the McMillan Foundation,” he said. “This action shows the board members’ faith in our researchers and that the work we have done and are doing in Overton is making a difference for agriculture operations in Texas and beyond.”

Dr. Charles Long, center director of AgriLife Research in Overton, said he was appreciative of the foundation’s move to expand on 50 years of support for programs at the center.

“Fifty years ago, the McMillan Foundation, along with local agricultural leaders and the Montgomery family, was a major force in having the Texas A&M center established in Overton,” he said. “They provided significant fiscal and in-kind support as well as long-term leases on 1,220 acres of foundation land and have provided funding for various center projects since the beginning.”

Long said the mission of the Overton center is to develop and disseminate new technology to serve rural and urban producers and consumers of agricultural and ag-related products and services. Research conducted at Overton addresses issues impacting forage-based beef production systems and horticultural production.

Hundreds of new varieties of ornamental plants have been tested at the Overton center with the best adapted ones identified as Texas Superstars.

Other horticultural research includes cooperative projects to develop roses broadly adapted for heat tolerance and disease resistance and solutions to problems associated with rose rosette disease, he said.

Plant breeding research at Overton has resulted in the release and licensing of numerous forage cultivars adapted to East Texas and the Coastal Plains states of the South.

“Research continues in this area to provide farmers and ranchers alternative plant materials to enhance profitability and sustainability of their livestock enterprises,” Long said.

Grazing management research at Overton has identified stocking rates and strategies to optimize sustainable land-use efficiency by producing beef cattle weight gains on pasture. And, nutrient cycling returns key nutrients to pastures via excreta and plant decomposition, providing a way to grow forage without nitrogen fertilizer.

“This research has enhanced the efficiency of producing natural forage-fed beef,” he said.

Overton center researchers also study the effects of early puberty, temperament and stress on the growth, reproduction and health of tropically adapted beef cattle, Long said. Research on stress responsiveness shows that cattle temperament affects production efficiency, immune response and product quality.

The effects of prenatal stress are being studied in cattle and results show that prenatal stress alters temperament, energy metabolism and immune function, Long said. Epigenetic effects may play a part in these observed differences; altered DNA methylation patterns were found to exist between treatment groups.

“The center also is developing an early calving line of tropically adapted Brahman cattle to increase beef production efficiency in Texas and in tropical regions throughout the world,” he said.

Recently initiated studies at the Overton center focus on factors affecting environmental sustainability including soil microbes, greenhouse gas emissions and related items, Long said. Data collection will link production and environmental measures.

“This increased support from the Bruce McMillan Jr. Foundation will facilitate increased research activity to develop new knowledge and technology to contribute to improved success and quality of life for Texas producers and consumers,” Long said. “We hope to expand programs that will provide educational opportunities for students and future researchers and provide sound scientific data that will improve agricultural production in Texas, the nation and around the globe.”

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