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March 31, 2014

Environmental project to beautify park

COMMERCE — As the drought continues in Texas, water conservation is a hot topic.

Lawmakers are continually looking for ways to deal with the water shortage caused by the drought.

According to Dr. Derald Harp, interim department head and associate professor of Agricultural Sciences, he and his students have a plan to help water conservation, while keeping beautiful landscape.

He and his team are working on a four year research project designed to help Texas’ agriculture in the drought.

For their research, Harp needed land for his plants.

Harp said as they were looking for areas to plant, he found out members of the Greenville Parks and Recreation Department were wanting to add new plants to the Greenville Sports Park.

“Basically I got to know the former director of the Greenville Parks and Recreation coached my son’s football team,” he said. “I described to them what it was we were looking for and what we wanted to do. It turned out to be a win-win for us. We’re looking for tough plants to survive in Texas and harsh environments.”

Harp uses Earth-Kind Landscaping, which blends traditional and organic landscaping to increase effectiveness of water conservation and reduces fertilizer and pesticide use to help protect the environment.

During the first year, Harp said they will be using a drip irrigation system to get the plants going with plenty of water.

The second year, water will only be turned on when needed.

And for the third and fourth years, they shut off the water and see if the plants can survive with limited water.

“We never spray any pesticides or fungicides,” he said. “A big part of what we do is a heavy layer of mulch. It provides everything we need fertility-wise.”

The team also will never prune except for dead branches to see if the plants will also survive with low maintenance.

“We are trying to keep it as maintenance-free as possible,” he said.

The department also tested roses earlier as well in Farmers Branch.

The department planted 100 different rose cultures using the Earth-Kind Landscaping.

Harp said the research was not only a success, but it also turned out to be a beautiful rose garden.

“The landscape was beautiful,” he said.

Harp said this is a great partnership where both parties benefit.

“Not only are we doing research that will benefit farmers, but it will also benefit the sciences.”

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