A research farm is the top priority for Cereal Crops Research Institute, a small group of northeast Texas farmers who joined forces back in 1987 to help direct research activities at nearby East Texas State University, now Texas A&M-Commerce, to work on specific needs of the area’s producers.

Securing that research farm will make other research priorities more attainable.

The organization has shown its willingness to help. By the end of 2010 CCRI will have donated more than $1 million into research projects, says CCRI President Ben Scholz, a McKinney, Texas, grain farmer and businessman and also an alumnus of the university.

Scholz, who has led the organization since 1987, says CCRI currently includes 19 members, mostly farmers from the Texas Blacklands. He and others will meet with Texas A&M AgriLife Research officials in October to evaluate the possibility of a partnership between CCRI, Texas A&M-Commerce and Texas A&M at College Station to secure that research farm near the Commerce campus.

Priority No. 1

“All the directors identified the need for a research farm as the number one priority to move this cooperative research program forward,” Scholz said.

Currently, scientists from AgriLife Research, AgriLife Extension, and TAMU-Commerce conduct research on farms rented by CCRI or on grower/cooperators’ fields. “This approach is attractive for some studies — it spreads the risk of adverse weather, for instance. This is desirable, especially for variety evaluation in conventional crops, but it is unsuitable for long term studies on management inputs and alternative crops.”

Scholz said land currently available on a long term basis also is not prime cropland. “Houston Black Clay and Leson Clay soils are considered to be the most productive in this region. However, all of the farms under university or CCRI control are primarily Wilson Silt or Crockett Loam, marginal soils in the region.”

Fertility research

Most of the region’s farms rank commercial fertilizer as their No. 1 input cost. “CCRI directors want to see an intensive fertility research program to identify rates, timing, and methods of application,” Scholz said. “All of us want to see more work done in all of our area grain crops — corn, grain sorghum, and wheat. Fertility studies in bioenergy crops such as canola and sunflowers are also essential.

He said fertilizer carries over from crop to crop and year to year, making long-term studies on a permanent site necessary. “This re-emphasizes the need for a research farm.”

Herbicide research

”Our industry is beginning to face weed resistance issues in all of our major crops,” Scholz said. “Local ryegrass is already very resistant to certain important classes of herbicides, and even the new herbicides being introduced will fail over time. An intensive effort in herbicide research is essential to keeping our industry profitable.”

Herbicide research requires planting various types of weeds for test purposes. “We cannot conduct this type of research on cooperators’ farms for fear of creating long term problems. These types of research can only be justified and conducted on a research farm.”

Bioenergy crops

“We identified bioenergy crops (canola, rapeseed and sunflowers) production as a potential profit center for this region. We all believe ‘green energy’ will have a prominent place in our economy for the foreseeable future, and we see the need to evaluate the viability of these crops in our region. This type of research will require a long time commitment for a production site.”

Scholz said all the CCRI research priorities will be easier to meet and will provide more useful data if they can be conducted on a permanent site.

“A research farm would be of inestimable value to our industry. We have assurance that scientists from TAMU-Commerce, AgriLife Extension and AgriLife Research will all avail themselves of this opportunity. Agribusiness scientists will undoubtedly be in interested in participating.”

He’s also excited about the opportunities for his alma mater. “A research farm will be invaluable for undergraduate and graduate education, as well as to provide student employment and ‘hands on’ opportunities.”

“CCRI wants to play a useful role as we advance this partnership, and we will support this program to the best of our ability. We have already invested more than $1 million in this combined research, teaching, and Extension effort over the years.”