Agricultural innovations reach far beyond the immediate end-users that are primary targets for better varieties, more efficient irrigation systems and new technology that improves farm and ranch profitability.
Anything that allows farmers to produce more cotton, put more pounds on beef cattle or more bushels of grain in the bins also helps rural economies. Advantages travel far beyond the farm gate.
Consequently, folks inside and outside typical agricultural circles were eager to voice appreciation for the 100 years of contributions the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Lubbock have made to the Texas High Plains.
“Lubbock and the South Plains have reaped many benefits from the work done at the AgriLife Center here in Lubbock,” says Randy Jordan, chairman of the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce and executive vice president of Citizens Bank.
“Their partnerships with the business and agricultural sector have undoubtedly translated into economic success. We here at the Chamber are proud to associate with the talented researchers and specialists at the AgriLife Center and look forward to 100 more years of agricultural innovation.”
“Contributions of the Research and Extension Center have been invaluable to cotton producers on the High Plains of Texas,” says Steve Verett, executive vice president, Plains Cotton Growers, Inc.
“We can just look at the names of the people who have worked at the center and many are names people in the area recognize.”
Verett cited cotton specialists James Supak and Randy Boman for their work in providing needed information to cotton growers. He also said entomologists Don Rummel and Jim Leser both worked with boll weevil control. “David Kerns is doing a fine job now.”
He said cotton breeders like Lavon Ray and John Gannaway provided better varieties for High Plains cotton farmers. “Gannaway oversaw a breeding program with a lot of changes within the industry and made a lot of improvements.”
He said at one time High Plains cotton “was considered junk. Now it’s second only to California in both yield and quality.”
Those efforts continue. “Jane Dever (current cotton breeder) is an outstanding cotton scientist with a lot of experience in industry.”
He said a former irrigation specialist, Bill Liles, who was also a farmer and a neighbor, “was doing what I should have been doing long before I did. He took research and applied it in a practical way.”
He says research at the center identified ways to irrigate more efficiently. “Jim Bordovsky is carrying on that work.”
Verett says the spirit of cooperation that has been a key part of the center’s focus for decades is instrumental in many of the innovations. He said Texas Tech, USDA, and the AgriLife Extension and Research teams all coordinate efforts to find solutions for High Plains challenges.
“Producers often are on the outside looking in and may not appreciate the difference between research and Extension. But center scientists all work together to solve problems for producers.”
He says he’s thankful for the efforts center scientists have made over 100 years. “They had ideas that made agriculture more productive and more profitable. Agriculture has benefitted significantly from those 100 years.”
Shawn Holladay, who raises cotton with his father on 7,300 acres near Lamesa, says contributions the center has made “have been incredibly important to us. We don’t have the ability, as producers, to look at the many things they do at one site.
“We use data they develop to help us make a living. We can hear things in the coffee shop, but we rely on research data to make decisions.”
He said the center’s work with disease control, rotation practices, and technology have all helped on their farm. “We also benefit from timely data on insect infestations and can learn which way they are heading."
Information from the Research and Extension Center “helps us manage risk.”
Monte Christian, director, Global Cotton Marketing, Bayer CropScience, says when he flies in and out of Lubbock and sees the center and the fields spread below he thinks of the people, scientists and staff, who have accomplished significant achievements in crop production. “This Centennial Celebration is a testament to them,” he says.
Cotton farmers have reaped enormous benefits from those efforts, he says. “We’ve seen improvements from one-row cotton pickers to the systems we have now. We’ve seen technology that has increased yield and that’s all because of dedicated people working for the betterment of the cotton industry.”
He says the center will continue to lead and find solutions to challenges. “Researchers here will be leaders in water research to help us manage and grow the industry.”
Corn has been a research benefactor as well. “We’re seeing a lot of work on heat and drought tolerance,” says David Gibson, executive director, Texas Corn Producers Board.
“We have to learn to manage the Ogallala Aquifer and we have to have varieties that adapt to the region,” he says.
He says research at the Helms farm, near Halfway, Texas, evaluates breeding lines and has just licensed some lines out to industry. Those new releases may help with drought management, he says.
He says work with irrigation, including subsurface drip systems, will benefit corn growers. “Farmers across the state will see benefits from these research efforts. Low Energy Precision Application (LEPA) has been the subject of ongoing research for years and has become the standard for most corn farmers. “We have very little irrigated corn acreage that’s not grown under LEPA,” Gibson says. “And others are converting as fast as they can.”
Jerry Harris, cotton ginner and producer from Lamesa, says work at the Research and Extension Center “is the reason I’m able to be here and be a cotton producer. We operate in a world market and to compete we have to have technology and have to be able to use it quickly after it’s developed.”
He says the combination of research and Extension gets the information to growers in a timely manner.
‘We can develop the best new technology but in five years the whole world will have it, so we must accelerate research efforts and utilize it quickly to stay competitive. The future of cotton in the United States depends on it.”