ARS Nursery in Mexico Plays Key Role in Cotton
January 7, 2010
There may not be a birthday cake, but
this years 60th anniversary of the Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
Winter Nursery (CWN) in Tecoman, Mexico, is a milestone worth celebrating.
The CWN is the site for about two dozen government, university and private
scientific research projects each year and an essential tool for ARS scientists
working to enhance the nations $3.8 billion cotton crop.
The nurserys years of service make it one of the longest running
cooperative facilities of its kind. Later this year, Mexican and U.S.
scientists plan to discuss the CWNs future operations at an annual
conference in nearby Manzanillo, Mexico.
Since its inception, the CWN has been operated jointly by ARS, the
National Cotton Council of America, and
Institute of Forestry, Agriculture and Livestock Research, Mexicos
ARS equivalent. A committee of government, academic and industry scientists
serves as advisors.
Cotton seeds stay viable for only about 10 years, so each year the curator
of the ARS
Germplasm Collection in College Station, Texas, sends between 700 and 1,000
cotton accessions to the CWN to produce new seeds. Each plant represents a
storehouse of unique genetic material that could prove useful for increasing
yields, improving fiber quality and controlling future pests and pathogens.
Cotton is particularly susceptible to insects, pathogens and environmental
extremes and together they can make it a challenge to produce plants with the
right combination of long, strong fibers that are uniform in length.
There also has been stagnation in cotton yields in recent years. Many
experts attribute that stagnation to the crop's narrow genetic base, but less
than 1 percent of the plants genetic base has been explored. The
nurserys tropical location provides a setting for that exploration by
ensuring a habitat for many wild collected varieties and shortening the time
required to study and develop new varieties by allowing researchers to raise
two generations of cotton each year.
more about this and other ARS collections in the January 2010 issue of
Agricultural Research magazine.
ARS is the principal intramural scientific research agency of the
U.S. Department of Agriculture.