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Davis College Awarded $4.9M to Explore Boundaries of Climate Smart Crops

BY NORMAN MARTIN 

A new study led by Texas Tech University agricultural scientists presents a unique opportunity to derive low-cost proxies for greenhouse gas emissions and establish targeted climate smart commodities to strengthen the economic and environmental sustainability on the Texas High Plains.

The $4.9 million interdisciplinary project, directed by Krishna Jagadish, the Thornton Distinguished Chair and professor of crop-forage-livestock systems in the Department of Plant and Soil Science, includes 10 faculty and professional staff from across the Davis College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources. Included in the five-year effort will be a diverse combination of 20 producers from 10 counties on the Texas High Plains.

"Participating producers have volunteered to be a part of this effort, which shows their desire and willingness to incorporate climate smart practices into their operations,” Jagadish said. 

Three key climate-smart commodities will be examined. They are sorghum-cotton rotation, no till, and multispecies cover crops.

The grant, titled “Establishing climate smart commodities with reduced greenhouse gas footprints to enhance environmental and economic sustainability in the Texas High Plains,” is supported through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Partnerships for Climate Smart Commodities, which is centered on obtaining information on production, energy and water use on diverse producer plots.

“Climate-smart commodities benefit ag producers and the environment alike,” said Glen Ritchie, chair and professor of crop physiology within the Department of Plant and Soil Science. “Dr. Jagadish and the many producers who support this work are at the forefront of providing food and fiber in the most environmentally sustainable ways.”

Darren Hudson, Davis College Interim Associate Dean for Research and the Larry Combest Endowed Chair for Agricultural Competitiveness, added that the project will form the cornerstone of real, problem-solving research with a major regional, as well as global impact.

“Water security and climate adaptation are key strategic areas of research for the College and Texas Tech,” he said. “This research grant crosses disciplinary boundaries to address a grand challenge. This is a very important research grant success for Davis College.”

Other members of the Davis College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources research team include: 

  • Lindsey Slaughter, Associate Professor Soil Microbial Ecology/Biochemistry, Department of Plant & Soil Science
  • Samantha Borgstedt, Director, Texas Alliance for Water Conservation
  • Donna Mitchell-McCallister, Assistant Professor, Department of Agricultural & Applied Economics
  • Wenxuan Guo, Associate Professor of Crop Ecophysiology & Precision Agriculture, Department of Plant & Soil Science 
  • Impa Somayanda, Research Assistant Professor of Crop & Forage Physiology, Department of Plant & Soil Science
  • Haydee Laza, Assistant Professor Plant Physiology, Department of Plant & Soil Science
  • Matthew Siebecker, Assistant Professor of Applied Environmental Soil Chemistry, Department of Plant & Soil Science
  • Aaron Norris, Assistant Professor, Department of Natural Resources Management
  • Amy Boren-Alpizar, Associate Professor, Department of Agricultural Education & Communications
  • Rudy Ritz, Professor, Department of Agricultural Education & Communications

As the project gets underway, the research team will establish a robust reference baseline and track the benefits associated with greenhouse gas reductions from these climate-smart commodities to benefit producers through carbon credits or direct monetary benefits. In addition, they'll determine economic outcomes through the adoption of these climate-smart commodities and behavioral changes needed for increased adoption of these commodities in West Texas.

“We'll use remote sensing tools to monitor crop/cover crop growth and health among participating producers and use these tools to track the rate of adoption across the entire region,” Jagadish said. “Different soil moisture sensors will be installed at the Texas Tech New Deal Research Farm and on participating producers' land to assess crop water needs and develop water-conserving approaches that are practically feasible, facilitating enhanced rate of adoption of these target climate-smart practices.”

In the later stages, the project will turn to the Texas Alliance for Water Conservation as a vehicle for disseminating the findings through farm walks and farm demonstrations and assist producers in adopting a combination of climate-smart commodities that best fit their operations. 

“We'll be working closely with the National Sorghum Producers and the National Cotton Council to help establish newer markets for these climate-smart commodities,” Jagadish added.

Source : ttu.edu

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