The East Texas Plant Materials Center (ETPMC), in an effort to increase its conservation footprint and technology development, is partnering with local universities to develop and facilitate graduate level studies. The partnerships have been mutually beneficial for the ETPMC and universities. The ETPMC is able to increase its work load and technology output, and the universities have access to new greenhouse facilities, a variety of field equipment, irrigation, and safe field space close to the universities; constantly monitored by PMC staff.
Active projects at the ETPMC include a simulated silvopasture study conducted by master’s student Jodi Hill from Stephen F. Austin University (SFASU). Jodi’s work will monitor the effects of different shade regimes on warm season, introduced and native forage grasses. Dr. Tom Miller from Rice University is studying native and introduced cool season grasses and their response to fungal endophytes. The fungal endophytes confer benefits to host grasses through their production of alkaloids, which can enhance the host’s drought tolerance or herbivore resistance. Understanding how endophytes function could allow the development of plants with increased drought tolerance or lower toxicity to grazing animals by managing the endophytes. Mike Winston is working with SFASU on assessing the existing seed-bank for moist-soil management on the upper Texas coast by monitoring soil samples in the greenhouse under 3 separate watering regimes, flooded, moist, and dry. The plants that emerge are identified and recorded which will generate a species list and their percentage in the samples. Madison Nelson, also through SFASU is following up work done by Paul Gray under Dr. Jo Taylor and is identifying fungal pathogens that attack Indiangrass. Lastly, Dr. Sheryll Jerez from SFASU will head a study in conjunction with the PMC that is aimed at developing functional shelter belts to improve air quality from poultry house. Her study will monitor species response to the adverse conditions surrounding poultry house exhaust fans and measure the air improvement of each design.