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  5. February 2019

Great Challenges: How Noble Will Address Them for the Future of Agriculture

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When the Noble Foundation became the Noble Research Institute in May 2017, we took time to realign our value and mission statements to better reflect our operations: producer relations (consultation), education, applied agricultural systems (farm and ranch operations), and research (plant science and forage breeding).

Our vision is to be the preeminent agricultural research institute, a trusted source of transformational knowledge and products, education, and technology to advance agriculture and land stewardship. Our mission is to deliver solutions to great agricultural challenges.

Combine Harvester in a grain pasture

Great Challenge #1: Economic Uncertainty

The land and resources of the Southern Great Plains make it a great place for forage-based beef cattle production and a few other (often complementary) enterprises, including wheat/small grain production, pecans and wildlife/recreation. Beef is the No. 1 agricultural commodity in our region and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future. However, what works well economically today may not work well in the future.

Risks associated with variable climates, markets and consumer demand all play roles in the economic uncertainty of agricultural production. Many of these risks are out of your hands as a producer, but you do have control over the way you manage your resources. And therein lies your opportunity to mitigate some of these risks.

Prescribed fire burning in a pasture

To help you mitigate risks associated with variable climate, costs of production and commodity prices, we are continually looking at ways to make agricultural production systems more resilient and efficient. This could include targeted management practices, science, technologies or products. We are working to provide you with economically and environmentally sound solutions in the short-term so that you can enjoy long-term sustainability.

Cattle grazing in a pasture

Producer examines plant roots

Great Challenge #2: Ecosystem Health

As we look across history, we can see where pursuing ever-greater production has created unintended negative consequences on soil health and our ecosystems. We can see this in the fall of ancient civilizations and, more recently, in the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Agriculture has made great advancements, but we will always have room to improve.

Today, we as an industry realize that management practices can both positively and negatively impact soils. However, we don’t know a lot about the soil. Many have called it the last frontier in production agriculture. While science has greatly advanced our understanding of the soil’s physical and chemical properties, we still don’t know much about the biological aspects, including nutrient cycling, carbon sequestration and water retention.

Overhead view of a crop field

We are poised to help answer questions related to soil health and ecosystem functions. We are evaluating ways to measure soil health and biology, and we are working toward helping you implement practices that build soil health and enhance ecosystems.

Agriculture has made great advancements, but we will always have room to improve.

We expect that the solutions we are able to provide here will directly contribute to improving your ability to cut costs and address economic challenges while protecting and even improving the ecosystem services upon which agriculture depends.

Producer and consultant examine a pasture

Great Challenge #3: Education and Training

Just as the number of farmers and ranchers in the U.S. continues to drop, so does the number of people who provide research-based agricultural education and training. Professional positions are being eliminated. State research stations are closing. Fewer state and federal resources are being allocated toward agricultural programs at land-grant universities and agricultural agencies despite the ever-increasing demand for food. At the same time, there is an increasing number of people new to agriculture and land ownership who have little to no education or experience in production.

It’s not enough for us just to develop new tools and technologies or to evaluate different practices. In order for these different ideas and options to take practical shape on your operation, you need to know what we are doing and seeing in our fields.

To bridge this gap, we are becoming more intentional with our educational programs. Our goal is to create a Noble Learning community where you can learn in ways that best meet your needs. We want to equip you with the information and experiences you need to help you make confident decisions for your operation.

We believe we have a unique ability to provide you with great educational opportunities because we work in such a continuum: We form individual relationships with producers; we participate in industry-wide activities; we conduct research at the basic level in laboratories; and we conduct applied research on our farms and ranches, where we demonstrate different ideas and products.

We look forward to continuing to build relationships with you and to showing you even more of what the Noble Research Institute can offer you. We will also continue to serve as a resource to other agriculture professionals and industry leaders as well as youth and society.

Tour group examines an ag operation

Hugh Aljoe serves as the director of producer relations (consultation and ranch management) and a pasture and range consultant. He has been associated with Noble Research Institute since 1995. Prior to coming to Noble, he managed a 3,000-acre 1,500-head cattle operation in Texas. Hugh received his master’s degree in range science from Texas A&M University with emphasis in grazing management.

Michael Udvardi, Ph.D.
Former Professor