Definition of Plant Production
As agriculture becomes increasingly data-intensive, this research team is working to develop models and explore new technologies that can help farmers make decisions about best practices for managing their crops. Farmers can use technologies such as unmanned aerial vehicles, yield monitors, thermal imaging systems and variable rate fertilizers and irrigation equipment to take aerial images of their fields, identify heat or water stress crops, measure their yields, and optimize fertilizer and water applications. Plant growth begins in the soil, and understanding the microorganisms that break down organic matter to produce vital nutrients in that soil is an important part of plant production systems. This research team, led by Yucheng Feng, professor of soil microbiology, studies plant-soil microbial interaction and its link with plant and animal agronomic and horticultural production. Feng`s diverse team includes plant and soil scientists, environmental and animal scientists, horticulturists, entomologists, plant pathologists, and agricultural economists. Research covers everything from soil health to pest and disease control to forage crops. An example of an ongoing integrated project is a study on how catch crop grazing affects soil health in row crop production systems. Soil, feed and animal scientists are involved in the project. Pests and pathogens pose major challenges for the healthy and productive preservation of agricultural and landscape horticultural crops. This research team focuses on biosecurity and crop protection to keep these threats at bay.
Using applied plant science, researchers are identifying strategies to prevent plant losses due to diseases and insects during production and after harvest. Some team members are studying new approaches to quarantine regulated pests such as fire ants, and others are monitoring the spread of the invading soybean rust pathogen through sentinel soybean plots planted throughout Alabama. Team leader David Held, associate professor of entomology, is working on a multi-state study to control the crepe myrtle bark-scaled insect, a pest that causes serious damage to the Southern Crepe Myrtle population. Agricultural economists are also part of the team studying the long-term financial impact of the insect on crepe myrtle producers. Agricultural plants are commonly called: wood, cereals, container plants and lawn production. CFR § 170.305: An agricultural plant is defined as any plant or part thereof that is grown, maintained or otherwise produced for commercial purposes, including the cultivation, maintenance or other production of plants for sale or trade, for research or experimental purposes, or for partial or total use in another place. Agricultural plants include, but are not limited to, grains, fruits and vegetables; wood fibres or wood products; flowering and deciduous plants and trees; seedlings and grafts; and turf grass produced for turf. Agricultural facilities do not include pastures or pastures used for grazing. This team, led by Jay Spiers, professor of horticulture, includes plant pathologists, plant physiologists, entomologists and growers who are working to develop new and better plant varieties. Researchers study pathogens and organisms that cause problems in plants and work on selecting varieties that are resistant or tolerant to diseases and insect pests. Spiers conducts plant evaluations to test varietal characteristics such as fruit quality and yield, and also evaluates different varieties or selections of breeding programs to determine their behavior in different regions of Alabama.
Often, the group`s research also straddles human health systems and sustainable ecosystems, such as increasing drought tolerance in peanuts and breeding to improve nutrient components. Plant production and management systems bring together plant science disciplines such as plant and soil sciences, horticulture, entomology and plant pathology. This focus also includes scientists in the fields of biosystems engineering and agricultural economics as well as rural sociology who deal with plant production and management. Key research topics include crop production and protection, cropping systems, adaptability and resilience, agricultural technologies and innovations, and the impact of agricultural production systems on the ecosystem. Healthier soils with higher amounts of natural fertilizers produced by microbes mean higher production and lower costs for farmers. Bill Batchelor, a professor of biosystems engineering, said the team he leads is developing tools that will help producers analyze the data and leverage the technology. The team`s research includes the development of sensors to measure soil properties, the generation and use of global weather data, and a proposed project to study technologies that improve the sustainability of cotton and groundnut cultivation.