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Old McDonald had a phytochemical
Date:11/21/2007

rchers are beginning to examine beyond the size of the crop and pounds it yields to determine the content of healthy compounds in the produce and how farming methods may alter those.

Because water is becoming more restricted for farmers in southern and western Texas, Leskovar said, scientists decided to look at what would happen to the compounds if the traditional amount of moisture put on the crops was reduced.

Why irrigation" We depend on irrigation from the Edwards Aquifer which is the main source of water for over 1.7 million people and also is the main source for irrigation in the Winter Garden area, he said. We expect that the water-use regulations are going to be harder, and so we have to be prepared for using less water.

Currently, farmers in that area are not allowed to use more than 24 inches per acre in a given year. If that amount has been applied, a grower can not use more water on a food crop to save it, even if drought threatens to kill the entire field.

By comparison, turf grasses need about 1 inch of water a week 52 inches a year - to stay green and growing, according to American-Lawns.com, an independent turf education entity.

But farmers may have a better incentive to reduce water on crops, Leskovar noted, if they can draw a higher price for the health aspects.

First pick for the research were watermelons, Leskovar said. As their very name suggests, melons need lots of water. Also, they contain carotenoids and lycopene antioxidants that protects against cancer and other diseases in humans.

Lycopene does not decrease and can actually maintain or even slightly increase with deficit irrigation without having too much of significant loss in yield, he said. We also know that lycopene increases with maturity. So the more precise the timing of harvest, the greater the potential for more lycopene in those watermelons.

Leskovar and fellow researchers in Uvalde performed similar studi
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Contact: Kathleen Phillips
ka-phillips@tamu.edu
979-845-2872
Texas A&M University - Agricultural Communications
Source:Eurekalert

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