Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Tornado Hits Texas A&M AgriLife Facilities

The Vernon location is home to the new $1 million Foundation Seed shelling plant.
The Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Vernon was damaged by an EF-3 tornado May 4.

On May 4, an EF-3 tornado hit the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center and the nearby Texas A&M AgriLife Foundation Seed facility in Vernon. What followed was an outpouring of comfort and support from the communities of Vernon to Wichita Falls and from the entire Texas A&M AgriLife statewide network.

All employees accounted for and safe, most of them were back on the premises the night of May 4, helping secure as much of the property as possible, said Rick Vierling, center director. 

New Sheller OK, Wagons Destroyed

Preliminary assessments reported damage to infrastructure and buildings, including but not limited to greenhouses, metal buildings and vehicles. After initial inspections, much of the equipment appeared to be intact.

“Every building at Foundation Seed is impacted, except for the office,” Vierling said. “The larger equipment appears to be undamaged. Our new $1 million peanut sheller appears to be okay, along with the wheat seed cleaner.” A more thorough assessment would take some time.

He said they were lucky their large equipment — a combine, cotton stripper, tractor and sprayer — appear to be undamaged or only have minimal damage. Some small equipment was damaged, and 10 of 21 peanut wagons were destroyed.

Cold Storage Facility A Special Concern

Another immediate concern in the cleanup at the Foundation Seed facilities was the research material in cold storage, Vierling said. All the materials had to be moved to a warehouse to get them out of the elements.

The Texas A&M AgriLife Foundation Seed offices were spared but all other buildings were damaged.

Foundation Seed produces and markets genetically pure seeds of new plant cultivars developed by AgriLife Research scientists. It also distributes vegetatively propagated plant materials and provides production and seed conditioning services to public and private breeding programs.

The cold storage room housed 2,000 breeder samples and early generation material of nearly 20 species of different crops, including small grains such as wheat, oats, rye and barley, as well as peanuts, cotton, native flowering forbs, grasses, millet, guar and sorghum. While there are other locations around the state, Vierling said the Foundation Seed location was their largest cold storage facility.

Employees have worked at the facilities, if possible, or from home, but work continues all the same. One event that did have to be postponed – the 50th anniversary celebration of the Texas A&M AgriLife center in Vernon scheduled for June 21.

“We are postponing it for now, but we will celebrate our anniversary sometime this year,” Vierling said. PG

Article provided by Texas A&M AgriLife. 

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