AgriLife Research scientific contributions at Overton center spans 50 years

Writer: Adam Russell, 903-834-6191, adam.russell@ag.tamu.edu

OVERTON — The Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Overton will celebrate 50 years serving Texans on July 12.

For half a century, Texas A&M AgriLife Research has conducted trials and developed new innovations to help East Texas and Texas producers optimize their operations and to provide quality goods, including flowers, fruits and vegetables, and beef to consumers.

Overton center staff will welcome public, state and area officials and Texas A&M University System officials to the facility at 1:15 p.m. July 12 for presentations on its history and contributions to Texans.

Presentations by staff will be followed by a keynote address from John Sharp, Texas A&M System chancellor, and comments by Dr. Craig Nessler, AgriLife Research director; Dr. Doug Steele, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service director, and Dr. Mark Hussey, vice chancellor and dean for College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M University, all from College Station.

A reception will follow the ceremony.

Nessler said the 50-year milestone for the Overton center and the future of AgriLife Research around the state should be celebrated by all Texans.

“AgriLife Research scientists in Overton have made amazing contributions to the daily lives of Texans in the past 50 years,” he said. “Much of what we do as researchers is done behind the scenes and without a desire for attention and accolades. But if you enjoy ornamental flowers or great lawn turf, produce or consume beef, or grow fruits and vegetables, there’s a good chance you’ve benefited from AgriLife Research efforts in Overton.”

AgriLife Research at the Overton center focuses on the problems and potential successes for residents and producers in East Texas, Long said. Developing new technology and techniques for producers and consumers is the mission of AgriLife Research’s statewide system.

Scientists at the center cover a wide range of disciplines including horticulture, soil and crop science, animal science and related fields. The research trials performed by scientists at the center are provided to producers and consumers through coordinated efforts with AgriLife Extension specialists and agents around the state, who represent the educational arm of the system.

Dr. Charles Long, the center’s director for the past 35 years, said research conducted at the center has made lasting impacts for Texas farmers and ranchers, various agricultural industries, the state’s economy and the residents who enjoy the end product.

Research activities at the center fit the highest regional agricultural priority as available financial, facility and personnel resources allow, Long said.

“The plan is to conduct research in areas of the highest need while ensuring programs are sufficiently supported to provide a reasonably high probability of success,” Long said.

Scientists at the Overton center conduct research in five disciplines – soil science, pasture utilization, forage plant breeding, animal physiology and horticulture.

Over the past 50 years, AgriLife Researchers have developed and conducted trials on thousands of varieties of ornamental flowers, fruits and vegetables, and forages.

For example, Dr. Lloyd Nelson, AgriLife Research small grains breeder, developed Panterra and Axcella 2, turf-type annual ryegrasses bred specifically for winter overseeding of warm-season grasses on athletic fields and home lawns. The varieties have been used in the Olympics and World Cup and on Professional Golfers Association courses.

Nelson also developed forages. He is responsible for TAM 90, a ryegrass that combined cold and rust tolerance from other popular ryegrass varieties to create the winter forage. Since its creation in 1990, 85 million pounds of TAM 90 have been sold, enough to overseed 2.8 million acres.

Scientists also conduct research to identify physiological and temperamental traits in beef cattle that can optimize production for producers.

Dr. Ron Randel, an internationally known AgriLife Research physiologist, oversees several projects at the center focused on the reproductive physiology of tropically adapted cattle, the nutrition-reproduction interaction and most recently the temperament and stress responsiveness of beef cattle. He has researched the physiology and endocrinology of ovarian and pituitary functions in Brahman cattle for more than four decades.

“Those two scientists are just a couple of examples of what AgriLife Research has been doing over the past five decades,” Long said. “There are success stories after success stories that continue to impact the lives of people all over the world, and they were written right here in Overton.”

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