“We need the ability to look at things long-term,” Griffin added.

They say the soils and climate of Northeast Texas and the Blacklands are unique. “The structure of the soils in this area is vastly different from soils in other areas,” Akins says. “We have a lot of questions about nutrients sequestered in the soil, for instance. What’s there and can we get it? And how do we take advantage of it if it is available?”

Jay Norman, who farms near Wolfe City, Texas, says aflatoxin research is another area that demands a localized, consistent test site for long-term research. “We have a pretty good handle on aflatoxin now,” he says. Recent adoption of atoxigenic strains of the aspergillus fungus by many Northeast Texas and Blacklands corn farmers has reduced aflatoxin levels significantly, but ongoing research is necessary, Norman says, to maintain the progress. And aflatoxin is not something cooperator farmers want added to their soils.

“We need a permanent site for this kind of research,” Scholz says. “Some projects take years before scientists can develop the data we need to make production decisions.”

Norman says farmers in Northeast Texas, as well as anywhere in the country, need a source of “unbiased, university research. It’s critical.”

“I can’t even guess at the number of products pushed on us every year without credible testing,” Akins says. “It’s all snake oil until it’s tested and until it works.”

Proponents of the research farm are not asking for a large, state-of-the art research center. They can do without elaborate office buildings, laboratories and other facilities available at some experiment stations. “We need from 150 to 200 acres, preferably near Texas A&M-Commerce for easy student access,” Scholz says. “We need only minimal facilities, such as equipment sheds and barns. Scientists from other locations across the state can bring some of their trials here. At one time, it may have been necessary to have scientists on-site. That’s no longer the case.”

He says a verbal commitment for funding for the farm was made several years ago by Texas A&M-Commerce, with indications of research support from College Station.

“Our next step is to get all the stakeholders together to develop a strategic plan and then agree to locate a farm and secure it,” Scholz says. “We need to get all the stakeholders to participate.” Stakeholders include Texas A&M-Commerce, Texas AgriLife Extension, Texas AgriLife Research, scientists headquartered at College Station, CCRI, regional farmers and other related ag industries.

Ag students at A&M-Commerce are among the stakeholders in a research farm. Students have an option of taking an ag practicum class that offers credit for making a crop. Students get seed money from CCRI and currently use leased land near the university to plant, manage and harvest a crop. If they make a profit, they keep the proceeds, after repaying the seed money. Scholz says that program is a unique opportunity for A&M-Commerce students, and one of only three such programs in the country.

Currently, CCRI and other stakeholders are routing a petition to farmers, ranchers, bankers, farm suppliers, and a few legislators asking for support for the project. “We hope to get signatures representing 1 million acres,” Scholz says

“We know it’s good for the region, for what we do,” Akin says. “And for those who come after us, it will be critical.”