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By Don Thompson
KNOX CITY –The United States Department of Agriculture –National Resources Conservation Service at the James E. “Bud” Smith Plant Materials Center researches native grasses and plants and provides information to seed companies, farmers and ranchers in the north Texas area with the mission to control erosion, improve range and pastures, and conserve natural resources.The facility, located about 5 miles northwest of Knox City,is one of 27 in the United States, and one of only three in Texas. The other two in Texas are in Nacogdoches in east Texas and Kingsville in south Texas.Brandon Carr is the Knox City facility Manager and is supported by Agronomist Dustin Wiggins and Farm Manager Randy Kuehler. To accomplish theirmission, the NRCS acquires plants and seed collections, growsthe plants, documentsplant production, and testsand evaluates the plantsunder actual use conditions. The program emphasizes the use of native plants as a way to address conservation issues and restore native ecosystems.To document and evaluate, the center must measure and record conditions such as rainfall, temperature, soil conditions, adaptability, drought tolerance, production, and other factors.It takes five to ten years of testing and research to offer a new release of plants and seeds. “To be able to leave things a little better than we found them is our goal” said Manager Brandon Carr. “We are proud to make a difference.”