Mission-Linked Research Explores New Opportunities for Cotton
Mission-linked research encompassing basic and applied research to promote the advantages of cotton and bring new opportunities for cotton beyond the fiber-to-fashion supply will be next phase for research in the cotton sector.
Bringing 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 is the way forward. This effort was visible recently at a reception hosted for Professor Luis Rafael Herrera-Estrella, a foreign member of the United States National Academy of Sciences (NAS), who is joining Texas Tech University (TTU) as a distinguished professor.
TTU already has five National Academy of Engineering members among its distinguished faculty.
Dr. 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 made possible thanks 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.
Aspects of basic research such as that of Dr. Herrera-Estrella needs to be translated in the field to benefit the farmers and the entire supply chain. Involving and focusing academia, industry, local, state and federal agencies on strategic projects may be the way forward. Paying attention to the strategic strengths of cotton in the High Plains of Texas is evident in the recent effort at TTU, which was echoed in a statement by Lawrence Schovanec, TTU President.
Addressing the issues faced by stakeholders – whether cotton producer, consumers and importing nations – will pay a good return on the investment.
“Cotton producers rely heavily on the research activities conducted by universities,” says Shawn Wade, Director of Policy Analysis and Research at 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 that can range from managing or adapting to increased environmental stresses to developing new markets for low micronaire cotton are key to their continued success.”
Eric Hequet, Chairperson of the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences at TTU and an internationally-renowned researcher on cotton fiber quality, provided insight on the importance of fiber quality research.
“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,” stated Hequet. “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,” he added.
Additionally, attracting leading talents in strategic areas will drive innovation forward, such as the addition of the first NAS member to TTU.
“With the strength that Dr. Herrera-Estrella will add to our genomics effort, combined with our already world-class programs in production practices, economics, fiber quality, and novel uses for cotton fiber, Texas Tech will be the global leader in research, education, and outreach related to this important crop,” stated Michael Galyean, TTU Provost.