Cotton research at the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service Arid-Land Agricultural Research Center in Maricopa, Ariz., ensures that systems benefitting agriculture in arid and semi-arid Western regions are also important throughout the United States.
The Arid-Land Agricultural Research Center is the only remaining federally funded research facility with a cotton focus in the Western growing region, following USDA’s closure of the Cotton Research Station near Shafter, Calif., in 2012.
How Projects Are Addressed
With attention more centrally concentrated in Maricopa, researchers take a three-pronged approach to projects. “Crop improvement, crop production and crop protection are our focus,” says Steve Naranjo, center director.
This approach is reflected in the research units at the facility: The Pest Management and Biocontrol Unit, the Plant Physiology and Genetics Unit, and the Water Management and Conservation Unit. Their goal is to develop sustainable agricultural systems, protect natural resources and support rural communities in arid and semi-arid regions, according to the center’s mission statement. All cropping systems in the cotton-growing regions of the West are arid and in most regions, cotton has been the most organized and research-focused.
Naranjo and center staff have adjusted to many concerns due to funding issues as well as evolving technologies, much like the region’s producers. One of the center’s main focuses is high-throughput phenotyping, which is accelerating germplasm improvements, especially for heat and drought tolerance.
Partnerships Provide Support
Strategic assessment and partnerships make sure that past advances are maintained while pursuing new advances to benefit growers. For example, cooperation with the University of Arizona ensures that whitefly and pink bollworm levels are kept low or even eliminated while the center’s research continues efforts to disrupt Lygus damage in cotton.
Partnerships extend beyond Western universities. Collaborations with the University of Arkansas and the University of Tennessee are important to the Pest Management Unit. The Plant Physiology Unit works with researchers at the University of Florida and the University of North Texas.
Partnerships are also developing as the center explores funding resources and advancing technologies. “We’ve partnered with NASA on remote sensing. We’re part of sending up better satellites that will help with crop management,” Naranjo says.
The partnership will help refine and bring greater resolution to GPS mapping in fields.
Cotton Incorporated has also been involved in helping fund research covering all three of the center’s cotton-related units, which cover entomology, physiology and water. Cotton Incorporated helps coordinate research throughout the Cotton Belt to ensure that it is optimized to benefit producers.
Brent Murphree is the Cotton Board’s Regional Communication Manager for the West. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (602) 810-1171.