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Texas Ag Daily
NASA sponsors AgriLife research of drought-stricken trees

Texas A&M AgriLife Research (AgriLife) scientists, backed by NASA, will study drought-stricken trees in Texas to determine process of decay and influences on their ecosystem. 

Three AgriLife scientists have been approved for a three-year $347,426 grant under the Rapid Response and Novel Research in Earth Science program operated by NASA.  The project is titled “Using LiDAR to develop a climate-driven model of the disintegration and decay of trees killed during a severe drought,” according to AgriLife Today.
The rate of tree breakdown will be monitored through Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR), which is a remote-sensing technology that uses laser light to measure the distance from sensor to target and creates a three-dimensional model.

Texas forests have suffered tree loss nine times above normal levels due to severe drought.  The remote sensing of tree disintegration and decay will be innovative, may indicate a connection to potential changes in climate and assist in other forest ecosystems.

Hopeful start of Texas shrimp season

Texas shrimp harvest season began July 15 and the Gulf Coast is crawling with shrimp boats from Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and, of course, Texas. These shrimpers are optimistic for the season’s catch, even though their job is ranked at having the highest mortality rate of all commercial fishing.  Gulf waters can be very rough during harvest season.

“The shrimping business is competitive, financially risky and highly dangerous for crew members," said Tony Reisinger, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service (AgriLife) agent for coastal and marine resources.  In the last 10 years, 55 men have died in the U.S. on shrimp boats, most of whom were thrown overboard, reported by Valley Morning Star.

So far, the shrimping has been good with nightly catches averaging roughly 2,000 pounds.  A two-month off-season allows shrimp to migrate from bays to estuaries to grow before returning to the Gulf. Only Texas closes the Gulf for off-season shrimping and it has been very effective in keeping Texas shrimping sustainable.

This season’s brown shrimp harvest in the western Gulf of Mexico is estimated to be 53.2 million pounds. The first 45 days of shrimping is the meat-and-potatoes of the business with crews working around the clock—24 hours with only short nap breaks.

Reisinger noted, “Shrimping can be a lucrative business that helps our state economy.”

Sugarcane aphids discovered in Concho Valley

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service (AgriLife) warns Concho Valley grain sorghum growers to monitor crops for sugarcane aphids.  The pests are on the move and have acquired a taste for grain sorghum.

“The pest left the Rio Grande Valley and moved into the Blacklands and Northern Blacklands areas of Texas earlier this summer. They were found last week in Coleman and San Saba counties,” said Rick Minzenmayer, AgriLife Extension entomologist. “Now, they’ve moved west into Runnels, Tom Green and Concho counties,” reported in AgriLife Today.

Fields in the Concho Valley haven’t been treated, but need to be monitored regularly.  If and when the pest reaches infestation threshold, fields can be treated.  The Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) approved a Section 18 emergency use permit of Transform, the only insecticide currently effective.

The sugarcane aphids prefer more tropical conditions. The aphids are tan to cream colored and initially colonize the undersides of leaves near the bottom of the plant. They move up the plant with colony growth.

Aphid infestation results in low crop yields, reduced seed set, plant seedlings lost and harvest machinery failures from profuse honeydew, the insect’s sticky excrement.  

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