Chinese scientists work with AgriLife to enhance Texas cotton production

cotton fibers prepared for harvesting

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Three researchers from China and a crop scientist from Texas A&M AgriLife Research are collaborating on a mutual interest: Boosting cotton production by improving irrigation practices.

Working together at AgriLife Research’s test center in Uvalde, a town on the state’s southern plains, the scientists are gaining a better understanding of the relationships between water, soil and the cotton plant.

“Many challenges we encounter in this area of Texas are similar to those encountered in cotton-producing areas of China,” said Xuejun Dong, an assistant professor of crop physiology with AgriLife Research. “We invited these researchers to share ideas and connect through similar research interests.”

Dong said he is especially interested in studying how cotton plants respond to limitations in their access to water.

The guest scientists are Yongjiang Zhang, a plant physiologist from Hebei Agricultural University; Jianchu Shi, a soil physicist from China Agricultural University in Beijing; and Lei Zhang, a plant physiologist from the Cotton Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Anyang, Henan Province.

According to the Texas Department of Agriculture, cotton, corn and wheat crops contribute more than $3 billion annually to the state’s economy. Irrigation is vital to sustaining production of these crops in South Central Texas, said Daniel Leskovar, director of the Uvalde center and an AgriLife Research vegetable physiologist.

“One of the critical issues we need to address is the water-use efficiency of these crops and how to adopt better irrigation management strategies,” Leskovar said. “To accomplish this, we need a better understanding of soil-crop water relations and the physiological processes and crop traits that regulate crop water use.”

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