The Beaumont Center consists of the , the USDA-ARS Rice Research Unit, and the Texas Rice Improvement Association

History

Rice culture in Texas originated around Baytown in 1850 and was developed into a commercial crop by 1899. That year 8500 acres of rice were harvested in the Beaumont district, and 200 acres in Colorado County. Research on rice in Texas did not start for another decade though, when an act of the State Legislature established an experimental station at Amelia in 1909.  

The U.S. Department of Agriculture joined the program in 1914 and the center became Substation No. 4 of the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station. By 1945 the Station had outgrown the facilities in Amelia and was relocated to its present site off highway 90. The land for the experiment station was financed by a group of rice farmers that became the nucleus of a non-profit organization now called the Texas Rice Improvement Association (TRIA). In 1968, Substation No. 4 was renamed the Texas A&M University Agricultural Research and Extension Center.

In 1970, western area rice growers petitioned the State Legislature to pass enabling legislation to authorize creating the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station (TAES) western research sites. This resulted in the creation of the Texas A&M University Eagle Lake Research Station, located west of Houston. In 2002, the station was renamed the Texas A&M University, David R. Wintermann Rice Research Station at Eagle Lake. The station provides 120 acres of land for research activities.


Scientists

The Beaumont Center has 10 scientists and a support staff that ranges from 60 in the winter months to over 80 during the growing season. The scientists work closely with faculty within the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M University in College Station. The Center sponsors several graduate fellowships and typically has several graduate students working on rice research projects in Beaumont or College Station.


Half of the scientists  are employed by the Texas A&M University System, with the other half employed by the USDA Agricultural Research Service. Research and extension activities at the Center largely focus on rice production and management, with a smaller amount directed at the production and management of alternative crops. 

An overriding goal of our Center is to provide Texas rice producers with a competitive advantage over producers in other states and other nations. But our service goes beyond just the boundaries of Texas. Our USDA scientists specifically have the additional mandate of developing scientific knowledge that will serve the agricultural needs of the entire US. 

The majority of our scientists hold professorial appointments with the Texas A&M University System. As professors, a primary focus is the development of fundamental knowledge of how rice responds to the environment and to agronomic inputs such as plant nutrients, and to injury or competition from insects, plant disease, and weeds. Some of their research also focuses on unraveling the biology and ecology of the major pest and beneficial organisms found in rice. Together this information serves as a foundation for the development of new rice varieties and improved production and management systems. 

An increasing number of our university scientists actively participate in teaching Texas A&M students how to think critically and how to develop solutions to problems so that they will become better at what they do as they prepare to enter the job market. Students are our future leaders. As such, the teaching role of our faculty is a very important part of our research and extension outreach efforts. Our scientists and support staff are also heavily involved with extension outreach at the elementary and high school level through class room presentations and by giving lab and field tours of our programs and facilities. Our Center has an extremely action community outreach program, providing numerous news releases and television and radio interviews. 

A goal at our Center is to have a research program that is a complete package from the development of basic scientific knowledge to the development and delivery of solutions to real world problems. While the more practical results from research can be almost immediately used by our producers, some research take years of concentrated effort. In many cases our basic and applied research programs are so intertwined that it is difficult to clearly say where one ends and the other starts. For example, while basic science, such as the use of molecular markers is used to determine which advanced breeding lines have desirable genes that control disease resistance or grain quality, the improved varieties that result from this process represent a very important practical end product. A continuum from basic research to applied research, combined with a strong emphasis of delivering information helps to insure the Centerís ability to continue to serve the needs of all of our clientele.


Facilities

The Center facilities are located on 990 acres in Beaumont and 120 acres in Eagle Lake. There are also smaller test sites in Bay City and Ganado. The various sites allow scientists to conduct research within the major soil, climate and cultural conditions found across the Texas rice belt, so that experiments give meaningful results for growers no matter where they are located.

The Center also supports a winter nursery in Puerto Rico, which hastens varietal development since two generations can be grown out each year.