The Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Uvalde is one among several institutions throughout the nation involved in a multi-year, multi-state seedling improvement project.
“The goal of vegetable nurseries is to provide high-quality, dependable transplants for growers,” said Daniel Leskovar, Ph.D., director of the Uvalde center as well as a Texas A&M AgriLife Research vegetable physiologist.
The five-year project will help identify those traits that are most desirable for producing improved seedling transplants. It will also contribute to a clearer understanding of how environmental factors affect seed and seedling performance in natural and agricultural ecosystems.
“This information is needed to ensure the continued vitality of native plant populations and the productivity of cropping systems,” Leskovar said.
Those most likely to benefit from the project are small and large commercial vegetable growers engaged in conventional and organic farming, seed industry suppliers, and vegetable transplant nurseries particularly in Texas, Florida and California. The project is also expected to benefit industries involved in the production and distribution of plant growth regulators, bio-stimulants and fertilizers.
Multistate, international project participation
The five-year project, titled “Environmental and Genetic Determinants of Seed Quality and Performance,” is supported by the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. It is led by 11 U.S. universities including Texas A&M. Collaborating institutions are in Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, New York, Oregon, South Dakota and Virginia.
The Multistate Research Funds Impacts Program has also featured Leskovar and this seedling improvement research in their newly created Researcher Spotlight video.
Individual collaborators for the project are members of W4168 — a group of highly dedicated seed research biologists at universities and federal facilities throughout the country.
“This is a group of internationally recognized authorities on seed science with a proven record of carrying out collaborative research within the present multistate project group and with other cross-disciplinary groups,” Leskovar said.
For research taking place in Texas, the project will also involve the international collaboration of industry experts in both Germany and Qatar.
Building a better seedling
Leskovar said growing high-quality transplants requires a thorough knowledge of the seed quality factors affecting germination and emergence under diverse nursery conditions.
“It also requires a broad understanding of the physiological processes underlying transplant growth and morphology in a root-confinement environment,” he said.
Transplant quality will affect how seedlings respond to heat, water shortages or…