Boost for Cotton Research

Seshadri Ramkumar, Texas Tech University, USA

Millions are being invested to boost cotton research in Texas. Cotton research gets a boost from the State of Texas through its Governor’s University Research Initiative. Texas has funded US$5 million to boost research and education in cotton at Texas Tech University (TTU) in Lubbock. This public funding has been matched by the University to create an institute that will focus on environmental stresses on cotton under the leadership of internationally recognized researcher in plant science, Dr. Luis Rafael Herrera-Estrella, a foreign associate member of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

High Plains of Texas is the world largest contiguous cotton producing patch, but is impacted by lack of rain, which affects cotton production and quality. Research on drought and environmental stresses is of international significance and more relevant to the cotton industry in the High Plains of Texas.

Agriculture is a core research area for Texas Tech and Dr. Herrera’s research in cotton genomics will help with the economic development of West Texas and the state, stated Dr. Lawrence Schovanec, president of Texas Tech University. President Schovanec’s vision is to raise the profile of TTU as an internationally renowned research intensive university. Attracting such highly recognized researchers will strengthen the university’s research in strategic areas such as cotton, wind energy and water. President Schovanec and his team are focusing on efforts such as undergraduate research, international collaborative education like linkages with China, Costa Rica, to name a few.

The new cotton institute will focus on areas such as cell biology, stress physiology and biochemistry, bioinformatics, etc., stated Eric Hequet, chairperson of the Department of Plant and Soil Science. Cotton research at TTU not only focuses on yield and quality, but also on value-added applications. Research activities at the Fiber and Biopolymer Institute and the Nonwovens and Advanced Materials Laboratory have resulted in high performance products such as bio aerogels, cotton based oil sorbents and toxic chemical decontamination wipes.

Dr. Luis Rafael Herrera-Estrella becomes TTU’s first National Academy of Sciences member, while the university already has five National Academy of Engineering members in its faculty. The new institute and Dr. Herrera’s arrival will elevate the university’s research status, stated Provost Michael Galyean.