UVALDE Forget the moo-moo here and quack-quack there. Farmers may find phytochemicals to be the barnyard bonanza.
And water may be the drop in the bucket that cashes in on the tug-o-war between urban and rural interests, according to research by the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station.
Thats because applying less water to certain vegetables in the farm patch increases disease-preventing phytochemicals, or nutrients, for which consumers may one day pay a premium, scientists say.
When we know what phytochemicals a vegetable contains, then the environmental and cultural strategies a grower uses can have an important impact on their content, said Dr. Daniel Leskovar, horticultural researcher for Texas Agricultural Experiment Station in Uvalde.
He said growers are increasingly becoming aware of the importance of phytochemicals in vegetable crops and know the key component for selling the crop still is quality.
Attributes -- color, size, texture -- are still extremely important in the produce market, he said. But the consumer is rapidly gaining knowledge about the benefits of phytonutrients that these vegetables contain. We can see that a segment of the consumer population is more prone to consume this type of product at the higher price.
An independent survey for the United Soybean Board this year indicated 60 percent of consumers are willing to pay extra for healthier foods.
From the time a tiny seed or transplant is plunged into the soil until it is harvested, a vegetable plant is subjected to a multitude of manipulations aimed at producing the most and best for consumers.
Everything from the precise day of planting to the type of soil and growing temperatures can determine the outcome. Leskovar said a plant that grows tall or wide in a given year could be either because of its variety or because it had the right irrigation, or proper fertilization or both.
But Leskovar said resea
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Texas A&M University - Agricultural Communications