If an issue has had relevance to Texas agriculture in the last 25 years, it most likely was discussed and analyzed at one of the Texas Plant Protection Association (TPPA) annual conferences.
Ray Smith, TPPA board chairman, reviewed some of those issues during his opening remarks at the recent 25th annual conference in Bryan, Texas.
Consolidation, he said, has been a major issue during that time.
“In 1970, we had 35 plant protection companies,” he said. “In 1990, we had 24; in 2012, there were only nine.”
Other industry changes include more regulation and “just the changing times,” he said. “Farms have also consolidated.”
Major topics the association has featured at the annual conferences include biotechnology, precision agriculture, boll weevil eradication, cotton root rot, aflatoxin, herbicide resistant weeds, water management, crop marketing and agricultural policy, Smith said.
“Back 25 years ago, we had no Roundup Ready, no Bt, and precision agriculture was just beginning. We sponsored two conferences on precision agriculture.”
Boll weevil eradication also got started within the time period of TPPA’s early years. “Few of us believed it could be done,” Smith said. Currently, the boll weevil has been eradicated from the U.S. cotton fields except for a small area in the Texas Lower Rio Grande Valley.
Smith said cotton root rot for many years was a devastating disease in some Texas areas. “Texas plant pathology was founded because of this disease,” he said. “They worked on it for many years. Now, they have found a product that works, Topguard fungicide. Something similar has happened with aflatoxin in corn. For years, farmers had only cultural practices and cleaning to manage aflatoxin. Recently, they have Aflaguard that has reduced aflatoxin levels by 80 percent to 90 percent.”
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During the last 25 years TPPA has followed efforts to manage these and other crop-damaging diseases, weeds and other pests.
Herbicide resistance, Smith said, is a current issue that speakers at TPPA conferences are addressing.
Challenges include continued cutbacks for Texas A&M Research and Extension programs from both state and federal budgets.
“And technology is changing. Communication now includes cell phones I can use to take photos in the field and transmit back to the office.” He said farm legislation has also failed to meet changing demands of agriculture.
Smith, one of the original organizers of the association, said the credit for success lies primarily in its structure—a triangle of industry, Extension and Research personnel from Texas A&M. Leadership alternates between the various segments of the industry. He said Executive Director Bob Sasser has been instrumental in keeping the association well organized.
“And the presidents of the association have kept it going over the years,” he said.