Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research awards $5 million to address water scarcity

Texas A&M AgriLife Research joins others to advance irrigation innovation Writer: Kay Ledbetter, 806-677-5608, Contact: Dr. Brent Auvermann, 806-677-5600, DENVER – Texas A&M AgriLife Research is poised to be a catalyst in the next major leap forward for water and energy use relating to food and landscape irrigation systems.
(Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Kay Ledbetter) The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, or FFAR, a nonprofit organization established through bipartisan congressional support in the 2014 farm bill, announced a $5 million grant to launch the Irrigation Innovation Consortium.
Initial participants are creating a platform for other universities, federal agencies including the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service, and the private sector to work together on the critical water challenges facing agriculture, municipalities and industry, according to FFAR officials.
“We will need to transition to a sustainable funding model fueled by marketable irrigation technologies and return on investment to our industry partners,” said Dr. Brent Auvermann, AgriLife Research center director at Amarillo.
Auvermann represented the Texas agency when the announcement was made April 27 at the Water in the West Symposium hosted by Colorado State University in Denver.
Remote-sensing using drones and satellite information, systems integration and management, and use of big data or Internet of Things will be the primary areas of focus for AgriLife Research participants.
According to FFAR officials, public sector researchers and industry partners will co-develop, test, prototype and improve innovations, equipment, technology, and decision and information systems designed to equip “farms of the future” with cutting-edge technologies and optimization strategies to enhance irrigation efficiency.
Royalties earned from patented technologies will be fed back into the consortium to develop even more advances for producers and ultimately benefit taxpayers.
“Taxpayers expect their public research money to pay dividends in the marketplace with new, improved and affordable technologies that achieve important environmental goals, like water conservation.” “The new Irrigation Innovation Consortium unites top university research talent with industry to promote practical advancements in irrigation technology and water management practices,” said Dr. Sally Rockey, FFAR executive director in Washington, D.C., in making the announcement.
The FFAR announcement said the goal is to create an internationally recognized, self-sustaining center of excellence that promotes and enhances water and energy efficiency in irrigation, ultimately creating greater resiliency in food and irrigated landscape systems.

Soil management may help stabilize maize yield in the face of climate change

Soil management may help stabilize maize yield in the face of climate change.
"The things that were most effective at buffering against the different forms of yield instability were soil organic matter and water holding capacity," Davis says.
Davis suggests a number of practices to increase soil organic matter, including using cover crops, avoiding excessive soil disturbance, increasing crop rotation length, and adding composted manures.
"Cover crops are a great way for improving soil organic matter; even small amounts of cover crop biomass seem to have soil organic matter benefits," Davis explains.
The study, "Soil water holding capacity mitigates downside risk and volatility in US rainfed maize: Time to invest in soil organic matter?"
is published in the journal PLOS One.
"Soil management may help stabilize maize yield in the face of climate change."
ScienceDaily, 20 September 2016.
Soil management may help stabilize maize yield in the face of climate change.
"Soil management may help stabilize maize yield in the face of climate change."

Basic microbiology research study unexpectedly uncovers practical findings for growers

Basic microbiology research study unexpectedly uncovers practical findings for growers.
Cover cropping also has its risks, especially if dying cover crops encourage disease pressure that passes on to the next crop.
Such is the unexpected lesson behind a recent study published in Phytobiomes, a new open-access journal of The American Phytopathological Society.
In this recently-published article, titled "Isolation of Cultivation-Resistant Oomycetes, First Detected as Amplicon Sequences, from Roots of Herbicide-Terminated Winter Rye," Dr. Matthew G. Bakker and several other researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service set out to describe the microbiology of dying rye cover crop roots and how their microbial communities changed over time in a field setting.
Among the many microorganisms detected, they found that several less-known species of oomycetes, including Pythium and Lagena species, were commonly associated with cereal rye cover crops.
While this research was originally meant to be basic, the study unexpectedly turned out to have some very practical findings.
In addition to describing and validating the microbiology of these rye cover crop roots, their work revealed that the Pythium species naturally passed on to the corn plants as they sprouted into seedlings, resulting in seedling disease.
"This study tells a neat story about how new research techniques can lead to unpredictable findings with important and practical applications," said Bakker.
"Another interesting aspect of this study was that the most abundant species of Pythium in the cover crop roots was different on one side of the field than on the other.
Other benefits of this study include… An improved understanding of the microbiology of dying plants in natural and managed ecosystems The demonstrated importance of using DNA technology to help detect the microbial communities associated with crops, as microorganisms can be difficult to cultivate in the laboratory An improved understanding of the ecology of oomycetes — and of the potential for shared pathogens between cover crops and grain crops Bakker hopes this and similar work will spark more research in root-soil dynamics.

Snap beans hard to grow in cover crop residue

Snap beans hard to grow in cover crop residue.
"We designed a study to look at a scenario that had a better chance of success.
We used snap bean, which is relatively large-seeded, and planted later to allow sufficient time to grow and then kill a cover crop."
In both Illinois and Washington, Williams and USDA-ARS agronomist Rick Boydston grew vetch, rye, and a combination of the two cover crops before killing them with a roller-crimper — a machine that evenly flattens and crimps standing plant biomass — or with a combination of the roller-crimper and a burndown herbicide.
Instead, vetch became weedy and caused yield losses in snap bean.
"Another issue was adequate seed-to-soil contact, which can become a challenge with excessive plant residues on the soil surface.
No-till snap bean performance and weed response following rye and vetch cover crops.
"Snap beans hard to grow in cover crop residue."
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.
"Snap beans hard to grow in cover crop residue."