Blog Posts

AgriLife Organic Workshop on YouTube

You know it is pretty sad that as the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Specialist for Organic Programs I had to get “schooled” about some resources I should have known about!

In the first picture you can see a screenshot of YouTube where Dr. Emi Kimura, Extension Agronomist in Vernon (pictured) has posted the best organic production videos around for Texas organic producers. I have been working my way through them and they are great and useful. Lots and lots of practical advice, put into practice type advice, and I recommend you take a look. Some are long so get ready to watch on one of those rainy days but it will be time well spent.

Here is the link https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLQeRtwVwL1DNmiHH8jsVgOfHgACk0JVzL

If you click on it you will go right to YouTube and then can choose from the list. Let me know you thoughts.

State of Organics in Texas

Did you know that there are estimated to be around 245,000 farms in Texas – that’s a lot, more than any other state.   Of this 245,000 we have around 360 organic farms in Texas or 0.15% – that’s not a lot, especially when you consider there are over 29 million people in Texas.  Just consider this fact, there are 24,719 fast food restaurants in Texas with $25 billion in sales.  Currently we have 398 organic certified entities in Texas buying and selling organic foods and hopefully some of that food is coming from our Texas organic farm families.  

As we look at Texas with its wonderful climate, growing population, abundant resources and outstanding people, Organic Agriculture has only one way to go – UP!

Organic Peanut Breeding at Texas A&M AgriLife

In the Texas A&M AgriLife Research peanut breeding program have 2 organic test locations this year. We put tests in locations across the state to be able to experience different conditions and to ensure we hopefully have some results if a whole test is wiped out!

In Vernon, Dr. Waltram Ravelombola, the statewide organic legume breeder is evaluating new breeding lines by collecting data using Unmanned Aerial Systems to evaluate emergence, seedling vigor, yield and grade across the season.  The lines being evaluated by Dr. Ravelombola represent the first year for evaluation of lines that were specifically bred for organic production. 

In addition, we are collaborating with Mr. Neil Froese on his farm in Gaines County for evaluation of similar traits in actual field level production scenarios.  This gives us an idea of how well breeding lines stand up to the pressure of sometimes unusual field conditions, weather, etc.

Potential Pesticide Drift on Organic Fields

The Texas Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation (TBWEF) needs your help, and it will be a big help to you!  They want all organic farmers close to any Texas cotton field, to let the TBWEF know where they are located so there are no accidental drifts onto your certified organic fields.  They will GPS locate and mark your fields so that they can protect them.  You can contact TBWEF at 800-687-1212 or email at communications@txbollweevil.org or contact me at bob.whitney@ag.tamu.edu and I will get them your information.

Organic Corn Silage, Potential Medicine for Dairy Cows?

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Almost everyone wants to eat healthy, and some folks really do eat healthy!  Researchers are constantly reminding us about the health benefits of antioxidants, but did you know that they are good for dairy cows too?  

Texas A&M AgriLife Researchers at the Lubbock and Stephenville Research and Extension Centers as well as Tarleton State University are conducting a dairy cow feeding research trial with a new high anthocyanin corn silage variety.  Anthocyanins are a class of compounds that may offer anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and anti-cancer benefits – to dairy cows.  This means that as the dairyman feeds his cows, they are eating feeds that will reduce long term health issues and keep the cows healthy and productive longer.  

This corn silage variety is NON-GMO and has been developed specifically for organic dairies in Texas.  Texas A&M AgriLife has the license for the technology and is working with both the Texas Corn Producers Board and a private company to research the dairy cow benefits.  Stay tuned for future results of this study!

Organic and Conventional Agriculture: Learning from Each Other to Promote Soil Health and Economic Viability in West Texas

by Dr. Katie Lewis, Texas A&M AgriLife Research-Lubbock

In Texas only about 16 percent of all cropped acres are under some conservation tillage. In semi-arid environments, soil health promoting practices such as cover crops are not well received due to potential soil moisture use and additional input costs. 

However, organic producers have been successful in these environments using crop rotation and cover crops under irrigated and dryland agriculture. It has been estimated that around half of Texas producers are open to the idea of organic farming and thousands of farms are already using at least some organic methods. The National Center of Appropriate Technology (NCAT) recommended that assistance to transitioning producers be a priority as well as a greater commitment for university research and extension efforts in organic production to accelerate the closing of the gap between consumer demand and the supply of Texas grown organic products. 

While Texas lags in organic production overall, Texas is the leading producer of organic cotton, peanuts, and rice. Texas grows over 90 percent of the organic cotton, 95% of the organic peanuts and 41 percent of the organic rice in the U.S. However, organic management practices are not always considered sustainable as tillage is the primary weed control tool. In addition, full benefits of cover crops may not be realized in organic production systems of West Texas as very low seeding rates coupled with early termination via tillage are common. 

We have teamed with the Texas Peanut Producers Board and Texas Organic Cotton Marketing Cooperative to identify agronomic production limitations in respective organic systems. In addition, the research team has a long history of working closely with farmers using conservation measures in conventional cropping systems. Our long-term study goal is to identify management practices that enhance soil health in organic and conventional agriculture and share successful practices that may be incorporated within respective farming operations to improve soil health and economic viability. Results from this project will empower both organic and conventional growers to make informed decisions on inputs that will result in effective soil health promoted practices and optimum economic options.