Cotton, Corn, and Cattle: Everything is Bigger in Texas
One only needs to look at a map of the United States to gain at least a preliminary understanding of how important Texas is to the overall U.S. economy, particularly from an agricultural perspective. After all, while humans are innovative, nobody has figured out a way to create more land in an economically viable way.
We have all heard the phrase, “Everything is bigger in Texas,” and agriculture is certainly no exception. The USDA 2017 Census of Agriculture pegged the value of all agricultural commodities in Texas at $24.9 billion, ahead of all states but California ($45 billion) and Iowa ($29 billion). Much like its northern neighbor of Oklahoma, cattle is king in Texas. It is by far the largest commodity in the state at $12.3 billion in value. Staying consistent with animal agriculture, broilers come in second in the state’s agricultural economy at $2.9 billion. We have our first plant-based crop of cotton show up in the number three spot at $2.6 billion. Corn comes in at number five at $1.1 billion in value.
By now you have probably guessed that Texas is our next feature on our tour of the U.S. land-grant university (LGU) system. The reason? Today marks the 175th anniversary of statehood for Texas and we thought that would be an appropriate reason to showcase the Lone Star state.
Texas is home to some of the largest universities in the country. In fact, according to U.S. News & World Report, Texas had two of the top 10 universities by undergraduate enrollment in 2019. The University of Texas in Austin was number 10 while Texas A&M University (TAMU) in College Station was number two with 53,791 students. Founded in 1876, TAMU is one of two LGUs in Texas, the other being 1890 Prairie View A&M University. For the purposes of this post, we will be focusing on the plant breeding efforts of TAMU.
Not surprisingly, TAMU has a robust agricultural research portfolio, not least of which is its plant breeding program. Although cotton breeding leads the way, TAMU also highlights its breeding work in sugar cane, rice, corn, cowpeas, wheat, oats, sorghum, perennial grasses, turf grasses, forage legumes, and peanuts. TAMU even has a potato breeding program, is a USDA-designated National Center of Excellence for melon breeding, and conducts vegetable breeding at one of its 13 agricultural research stations.
Suffice it to say, this post merely scratches the surface of TAMU’s plant breeding efforts. Everything truly is bigger in Texas.