Dr. Qingwu Xue, Texas A&M AgriLife Research crop stress physiologist in Amarillo, was honored with the agency’s Faculty Fellow award Jan. 9 in College Station.
AgriLife Research established the Faculty Fellow program in 1998 to acknowledge and reward exceptional research faculty within the agency. The Faculty Fellow title becomes a permanent part of the individual’s title.
“Dr. Xue’s peers respect him as a capable scientist, a valuable team player and a ‘people person,’” said Dr. Brent Auvermann, Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center director in Amarillo in his nomination.
Xue’s research focus has been on crop physiology, abiotic stress, drought tolerance and water management strategies for major crops in the Texas High Plains – corn, wheat, sorghum, cotton, potato – and more recently vegetables.
“His research has had a significant impact on crop management, identifying the structural reasons some plant varieties can withstand heat or disease stress so much better than other varieties,” Auvermann said. “Some plants have brilliant defense mechanisms, and Dr. Xue’s research helps us know how they defend themselves and what we need to look for in our breeding programs.”
Scientifically, his research can help breeders, geneticists, agronomists and irrigation engineers develop better varieties and management strategies to increase crop yield and water-use efficiency, his nomination stated. Practically, his research directly relates to producers’ bottom line, the rural economy, natural resources use efficiency and environmental health.
For example, Xue’s research showed new drought-tolerant corn hybrids can achieve high yield under reduced irrigation conditions. Field studies indicate it is possible to maintain 200 bushels per acre of yield at an irrigation level of 75 percent evapotranspiration requirement with some new hybrids. This level can allow irrigation water savings of over 20 percent, or 5 inches.
A reduction of irrigation just 1 inch/acre/year in North Texas High Plains corn acreage would result in a total water savings of nearly 13 billion gallons, according to the nomination.
Developing drought-tolerant wheat cultivars is a critical strategy for wheat management under water-limited conditions, the nomination stated. Xue’s studies indicate selecting cultivars with higher biomass and greater early vigor may be beneficial to wheat management in the area.
His team found cultivars such as TAM 111 and TAM 112 can use soil water more efficiently, which is important for producers to better manage wheat under dryland and limited-irrigation conditions. With multiyear field studies, Xue identified plant traits related to drought tolerance, which can be used by breeders to develop drought-tolerant wheat cultivars and geneticists to screen molecular markers and speed the breeding process.
Xue has also studied wheat streak mosaic virus infestation, WSMV, and determined the disease can reduce biomass and yield as late as the boot stage. WSMV reduces root growth, thus limiting the plant’s ability to extract soil water and potentially decreasing water-use efficiency.
Xue’s recent research on high-throughput field phenotyping has been significant for researchers and producers, the nomination stated. His program evaluated remote sensing tools at both ground and aerial levels to characterize wheat and corn genotypes for drought tolerance. These tools can be used to provide management information for producers within a short period of time, potentially increasing field management efficiency and reducing production costs.
Xue also worked with sorghum, conducting multiyear field studies and evaluating the feasibility of high biomass sorghum hybrids under different soil water regimes, according to the nomination. He determined limited irrigation may be more attractive for sustaining higher biomass yield and supplies given the large variation of seasonal rainfall in the Texas High Plains.
He is a nationally and internationally recognized scientist with significant invited presentations, the nomination stated. In the past five years, he has made 28 invited presentations of which eight were international. In particular, he joined a Texas A&M team and traveled to Tunisia for a U.S.-Tunisia linkage program workshop supported by the U.S. State Department.
Xue has a career total of 78 refereed journal articles and six book chapters. In the last five years, he has written or assisted in the development of proposals and contracts garnering $9.56 million, of which $1.32 million went to his research programs from a variety of sources.
Xue recently completed the AgriLife Advanced Leadership Program Cohort IV. He has received the Texas A&M department of soil and crop sciences Research Faculty Award; and served on teams receiving the Dean’s Outstanding Achievement Award – Interdisciplinary Research Team from the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and The Blue Legacy Award in Agriculture from the Texas Water Conservation Advisory Council.