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New focus for cotton: mission-linked research

Industry News, News | August 29, 2018 | By:

Mission-linked research encompassing basic and applied research to promote the advantages of cotton and bring new opportunities for cotton will be the next phase for research in the cotton sector. The new effort will bring expertise from different scientific fields, such as genomics, molecular biology, chemical engineering and textile science, to work on strategic projects to boost the consumption of cotton.

This effort was apparent at a recent reception hosted for Prof. Luis Rafael Herrera-Estrella, a member of the United States’ National Academy of Sciences (NAS), who is joining Texas Tech University (TTU) as a distinguished professor, becoming its first NAS member. Herrera-Estrella will focus on genomics and other advanced scientific techniques to improve cotton, such as stress tolerance against environmental factors, at the new Center for Functional Genomics of Abiotic Stress at TTU. This initiative has been possible due to a $5 million grant from the Governor’s University Research Initiative in Texas. TTU provided matching funds with the support of industry to establish this center in Lubbock.

Cotton research needs to be interdisciplinary involving aspects of basic research that get translated in the field to benefit farmers and the entire supply chain. Involving academia, industry, local, state and federal agencies in focusing on projects that are strategic may be the way forward. Lubbock is the epicenter of cotton activities in the High Plains of Texas.

Cotton producers rely heavily on the research activities conducted by universities, says Shawn Wade, Director of Policy Analysis and Research at Lubbock-based Plains Cotton Growers Inc. “Cotton producers face a tremendous number of challenges, all of which ultimately impact yield and quality of the cotton they produce. Research that can focus on specific issues—from managing or adapting, to increased environmental stresses, to developing new markets for low micronaire cotton—are key to their continued success,” Wade says.

Eric Hequet, chair of Plant and Soil Sciences department at TTU, says “Technological advances in textile production throughout the world and stiff competition with a wide array of man-made fibers have led to an ever-moving fiber quality profile target. Evolution of the textile industry forces us to continuously improve yield, quality, and stress tolerance of (Texas) cotton. Another aspect of this evolution is the increasing demand for bio-based products, which will create new opportunities for cotton. Interdisciplinary research and development activities focusing from gene to jeans will benefit the cotton sector and economies that depend on cotton.”

Seshadri Ramkumar, Ph.D., is a professor in the Nonwovens & Advanced Materials Laboratory at Texas Tech University.

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