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Meeting consumer demands will drive research of tomorrow
Chillicothe, Texas
September 30, 2005

Ensuring agriculture's survivability requires meeting the wants and needs of consumers, said Dr. Elsa Murano, vice chancellor and dean of agriculture and life sciences.

Murano said America is still as dependent on production agriculture as it was back in the 19th century when the land-grant university system was created through the Hatch Act.

"The relevance of agriculture has never diminished," Murano told the crowd at the 100th anniversary celebration of the Texas A&M System's Chillicothe Research Station on Thursday. "Agriculture is life. There is no life without agriculture."

The Texas Agricultural Experiment Station here is the birthplace of hybrid grain sorghum, which increased the acreage and production of sorghum in the nation and worldwide threefold.

Murano said researchers and specialists associated with the land-grant university system have always worked to meet producers' needs. They've helped improve many things, from feeding methods for livestock to controlling crop diseases.

Future research, however, must keep the issues of the consumer in mind, whether it is conservation, food safety or economics.

"We can no longer afford to produce without knowing what the consumer wants," she said. "Production agriculture must be consumer-driven."

An important characteristic of production agriculture is it is technology-based, Murano said. And it's the new technologies that "will allow us to give the consumer what they want."

"We are facilitators," she said. "We must focus on what is important to our constituents. For that reason, we have developed (teaching, science and extension) road maps."

The science road map focuses on sustaining healthy ecosystems and conserving natural resources; enhancing competitiveness and prosperity of urban and rural agricultural industries; and improving public health and well-being.

The Extension road map strives to distribute the research-based information at the community level where Texans can put the knowledge to use in their daily lives.

The final part of the task ahead, Murano said, is to secure and manage resources to allow the necessary research and education to take place.

By Kay Ledbetter, Texas A&M University

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