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Advances for panhandle agriculture

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Bushland, Texas - The agriculture future is bright for the panhandle according to leaders in the industry.

Texas A&M AgriLife and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are celebrating 75 years of research. At a conference today in Bushland the past, present and future of agriculture were discussed.

"Our expectations for the future are again basically to stay at the cutting edge," Dr. Bill McCutchen, Texas A&M AgriLife Research said.

Over the past 75 years research has been conducted on water irrigation, cattle management and more.

"As we all know, we have to feed the world. We have to continuously as we've seen here today keep improving our yields," McCutchen said.

One of the greatest advancements over the decades has been the increase in Texas wheat yields. They've increased 63 million bushels since 1930, which means an extra 2.6 billion loaves of bread could be produced from the same amount of crop.

"We're going to continue to be able to use less water, less land and produce more food," McCutchen said.

Water usage was another advancement highlighted.

"We've now developed wireless infrared thermometers, just like the one your doctor uses to look in your ear and get your temperature. It's the same sort of technology, only we look at the ear of the plant, it's leaves," Dr. Steve Evett, USDA-ARS said.

The thermometers can tell which areas of the crop need to be watered and what doesn't. Dr. Evett says these new technologies will help sustain the panhandles water source for the future.

"Even though the Ogigalla Aquifer is declining, we expect a bright future. Eventually we will deplete the aquifer enough that irrigation is too difficult, not profitable enough, but that horizon is way out there in the future because we're irrigating now with less than 50 percent of the water we were irrigating with 20 years ago," Evett said.

Agriculture is expected to keep advancing even more in the future. Leaders all say research is important to keep America fed.