Field day opens Temple research center to the public

TEMPLE – The first field day at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Temple and U.S. Department of Agriculture Grassland Soil and Water Research Laboratory in more than 30 years allowed public access to ongoing research and the scientists.

Dr. Hal Collins, USDA-ARS soil scientist, Temple, discusses research crops and their potential as fuel, seed, feed and other products during the recent field day at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Temple. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Adam Russell)

Around 75 attendees toured the 600-acre facility to hear presentations by Texas A&M AgriLife Research and USDA Agriculture Research Service staff regarding projects ranging from water and soil conservation to the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, for monitoring crops.

Dr. Tom Gerik, AgriLife Center director at Temple, said the first field day in more than three decades was a good start to what he hopes will become an annual or semiannual event at the center once again. Gerik also recognized Dr. Hal Collins, USDA-ARS soil scientist, Temple, for his leadership organizing the event.

“We had a great turnout and great interaction with the folks who came out to the field day,” he said. “The field day was an opportunity for area residents and producers to visit our facility, visit with the AgriLife and USDA staff members and learn a little bit about what we do here.”

Researchers led off the day with discussions about soil health and water conservation before attendees loaded into passenger vans for tours of ongoing field trials. The group was accompanied by researchers who held discussions at several locations around the center’s property.

Dr. Jim Kiniry, USDA-ARS agronomist, Temple, led the tour by showcasing ongoing research into canola and switchgrass production for bioenergy. Researchers followed with presentations on how UAVs are being used and will be used to monitor croplands for disease, pests and soil moisture.

“Remote sensing technology is good now and getting better every day, week, month and year,” said Dr. Wayne Polley, USDA-ARS research ecologist, Temple. “The interest in using remote-sensing devices, specifically UAVs, for assessing crop health is incredible, and exposing the public and producers to its capabilities and possibilities will only fuel the technology’s evolution and application in the future.”

Researchers introduced attendees to multiple studies being done on remnant native prairies, which is prairielands that have never been tilled. One study on the effects of fertilizing remnant native prairies is part of a project being conducted at multiple sites around the globe.

Dr. Bill Fox, AgriLife Research rangeland ecologist, Temple, discussed a growing interest by landowners in utilizing native plant species in their operations. Where landowner goals and management objectives allow, the utilization of native forage species can improve resilience and drought tolerance of grazing land ecosystems while, in many cases, reducing recurring input costs often associated with improved pastures.

“It is an effort that can provide some long-term advantages to sustaining overall health of the ecosystems,” he said.

Kiniry and Dr. Norman Meki, AgriLife Research agronomist, Temple, showed attendees their ongoing crop system modeling research that is helping determine best practices for growing corn, sorghum and peppers.

Collins followed by showing attendees fields of safflower, which is showing a variety of production potential as a biofuel, cooking oil and feed for poultry and other birds.

Other researchers finished the day by discussing row spacing and potassium fertility in cotton fields and the response of switchgrass to changing precipitation levels.

“There were good discussions and a lot of good questions from the attendees, and I think they left with a good sense of what we do here in our collaboration with AgriLife Research,” said Collins. “It’s good to have that interaction with the public and producers who benefit from our work.”

Attendees were treated to hot dogs and hamburgers for lunch.

After lunch, researchers were available at display booths to discuss various projects and applications being studied at the center.

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