Celebration to recognize 75 years of ag research in the High Plains set Aug. 29
Agricultural research entities in the High Plains will celebrate “75 Years of Southern High Plains Agricultural Advancements” on Aug. 29 at the joint U.S. Department of Agriculture–Agricultural Research Service and Texas A&M AgriLife Research facility, one-half mile west of Bushland, Texas.
The Conservation and Production Research Laboratory will celebrate 75 years of scientific advancements with field and building tours, posters and speakers who throughout the day will outline what agriculture issues have been addressed over the years and the science-based solutions found.
“Innovations in Soil, Water and Environment Management since 1938” is the theme selected for the celebration, according to Dave Brauer, ARS research agronomist and co-chair of the event.
The daylong event will begin at 9 a.m. with registration and continue through an evening meal. Bob Stewart, longtime director of the USDA facility and current director of the Dryland Agriculture Institute at West Texas A&M University, as well as other employees, past and present, will entertain and inspire with reminiscent accounts of research developments and important outcomes, said Jerry Michels, AgriLife Research entomologist and co-chair.
Morning field tours will include stops to look at integrated pest management, alternative crops, irrigation technologies and management, conservation tillage, wind erosion prevention and chemical control for fallow.
The lunch program will feature leadership from both the state and federal agencies discussing the importance of the High Plains’ facility.
The afternoon program will move indoors for historical presentations on other programs, such as wheat breeding, cattle production, air quality and a panel discussion with representatives of the agriculture industry on what might dominate research for the next 25 years.
Specialized tours will be arranged for individuals wanting to view the cattle research facilities and feedyard, the AgriLife Research Bush Farm located north of Bushland, and various greenhouses and laboratories.
Additionally, posters depicting the timeline of the key research program areas and the individuals and projects involved will be placed throughout the facilities.
The evening meal is open to anyone interested in hearing about the facilities, how they have grown over the years and the trials and successes celebrated there, Brauer said.
The research facilities demonstrate the active and productive partnership between the Agricultural Research Service, USDA’s chief scientific research agency, and the Texas A&M University System including AgriLife Research, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and West Texas A&M University.
“Over the years, scientists, regardless of agency or university affiliation, have established high producing teams that have advanced scientific knowledge and produced enduring benefits to mankind in this region and beyond,” said John Sweeten, AgriLife Research director at Amarillo.
“One of the messages we want to convey is this lab has a long history of agricultural-related research that has benefitted Amarillo and the surrounding communities through not only the research results that have supported agriculture, but also the many opportunities it has offered in training young people who have become leaders and contributors to the area,” said Steve Evett, acting research leader of the soil and water management unit for the Agricultural Research Service.
According to historical accounts, Congress first began working on legislation to support the laboratory in 1934 amid the Dust Bowl issues. By 1936, federal funding for wind erosion research in the Texas Panhandle was in place.
The land was purchased in Potter and Randall counties, chosen because it represented the fine-textured soils of the southern Great Plains and was severely eroded.
A local committee formed to set up the facility was composed of H.H. Finnell, Denny Hill and Dr. Horace Grub from the USDA Soil Conservation Service and assisted by U.S. Rep. Marvin Jones, Extension agent Art Bralley of Potter County, and C.J. Whitfield of the USDA-Soil Conservation Service in Dalhart. The first experiments were conducted at the laboratory in 1938.
The site was first named the Amarillo Experiment Station and staffed by Whitfield, who served as director; and researchers Hugh Porterfield, soil erosion; C.E. Van Doren, dryland production; and David Reid, small grains breeder.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed legislation creating the Agricultural Research Service in 1953, and brought most of USDA’s research functions into a single agency.
In 1959, an Amarillo Business Men’s Committee worked to secure funds to expand facilities at Bushland. A new office and laboratory building was completed in 1961. Later expansions have included a plant and soil processing building and water laboratory. Also added were a 350-head research feedlot, the Kenneth Porter wheat seed processing and greenhouse complex, environmental quality laboratories and other facilities to house emerging research projects.
The laboratory has been at the forefront of many of the research achievements in dryland farming practices, irrigation engineering and management, water conservation and management, small grain breeding, grain sorghum improvement, sunflower improvement, sugar beet production, soil fertility and beef cattle nutrition and health.
Also groundwater recharge, grass establishment, weed control, conjunctive management of plant insects/diseases, entomology, climate, conservation tillage and residue management, crop water use, crop stress physiology, plant pathology, dust and ammonia emissions from feed yards, and renewable energy technologies.