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U.S.-Israel Binational Foundations: Texas-Israel Exchange Program (TIE)

The Texas-Israel Exchange Program (TIE) was formally established in 1985 through the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement between the governments of Texas and Israel. The memoranda stated that there was considerable potential to work together on projects related to energy, trade, marketing and processing, crop development, water use and conservation, research, and joint adventures.Today, TIE continues to support agricultural research and development as well as improve trade and business relations between Texas and Israel.

In 1987, TIE established it’s first project: the TIE Demonstration Farm in Laredo. The Laredo Junior College had offered up to 100 acres of land along the Rio Grande for the farm’s creation and in the spring of 1987 a feasibility study was financed by the Jewish National Fund, which sent over three Israeli consultants to design the extensive plan for the farm. The first crops planted were in the spring of 1988, which included tomatoes, peppers, melons, and specialty cucumbers.

In 1991, the Texas Israel Exchange Board was formally appointed and focused on emphasizing a transfer of knowledge between Texas and Israeli scientists on improving agricultural and livestock production in arid climates. In January of 1992, a new Memorandum of Intent was signed with a focus to broaden the program, encourage greater participation and to prove, through applied research, that the similarities in agriculture between Texas and Israel can be a lesson for both partners.

The TIE Grant Program began in 1992 to emphasize a transfer of knowledge between Texas and Israel and started funding research projects in 1993 through grants awarded by the Texas Legislature and Texas Department of Agricutlure. Under the program, TIE distributed funding to the scientists in Texas and the Israeli scientists’ projects are funded through the Ministry of Agriculture in Israel. Each of the projects funded would require a Texas and Israeli scientist on each team, funded equally by the TIE Fund.

TIE funding is focused on pilot projects involving drip irrigation, desalinization, and greenhouse production.

Through 2011, TIE had secured funding for a number of innovative projects including:

  • Saline-Irrigated Garden Plants: The research is identifying annuals and perennials that can tolerate poor-quality water to free up high-quality water for domestic rather than landscape use.  Plants showing the most tolerance for salinity levels were portulaca, Missouri primrose, Blackfoot daisy and trailing lantana.  sumac, oleander, lion’s tail, snapdragon, aster, calendula and lantana also were found to tolerate salinity treatments well.  However, Mexican heather and velvet sage tolerated salinity poorly.  The project will continue to test plants for salinity tolerance and provide future recommendations for landscape plantings. The project received a $50,000 TIE grant and is based at Texas Tech University in Lubbock.

  • Drought-Resistant Wheat: The project will continue to examine the genetic basis of drought resistance found in a wild wheat that was the ancestor of a major Old World wheat variety domesticated in the Near East Fertile Crescent.  The wild wheat’s drought resistance was lost when the crop became domesticated. However, this research intends to apply modern molecular genetics to use a rich gene pool of Israeli wild cereals for improving drought resistance in cultivated wheat in Texas and Israel.  The project received a $50,000 TIE grant and is based at Texas Tech University in Lubbock.

  • Drought-Tolerant Cotton: The research will continue to identify drought-tolerant genes from wild cotton found in arid regions of Mexico and Central America to enhance drought-tolerance and strong fiber development in domestic cotton through plant breeding and genetic engineering.  Currently, 23 populations are being evaluated for yield stability.  The project received a $50,000 TIE grant and is based at Texas A&M University in College Station.

  • Rice Grown with Drip Irrigation: The project will continue to experiment within the Lower Colorado River Authority’s rice-producing areas to determine the feasibility of using sub-surface drip irrigation for growing rice.  Rice irrigation accounts for 74 percent of water consumed in the LCRA basin.  This project’s initial research has found that average water use by dripline irrigation treatments has been only 20 percent of conventionally flooded treatments for rice.  In addition, rice yields from drip irrigated fields were higher than yields from conventionally irrigated fields.  The project received a $25,000 TIE grant and is being conducted at the Texas A&M University Agricultural Research And Extension Center at Beaumont.

  • Annual Cut Flowers: The project will continue to evaluate a wide range of promising cut flower candidates for commercial production in Texas. Field trials on many varieties have already begun, including zinnias, cosmos and Indian summer. Research data will serve as a basis for producing a handbook and website on growing cut flowers in warm regions, particularly Texas and Israel. The project received $25,000 each from TIE and the Jewish National Fund (JNF). The Texas research is based at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches.
  • Land-based Fish Production: The study will continue to develop and evaluate a sustainable land-based integrated mariculture system to produce fish, shrimp and seaweed using seawater. The project received $25,000 each from TIE and JNF. In Texas, the research is based at the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station in Corpus Christi.
  • Drought-Tolerant Specialty Peppers: The project will continue to examine ways to improve drip irrigation and center pivot technologies; develop nutrient and irrigation management techniques to decrease drought- and heat-effects on peppers; and develop drought-tolerant chile poblanos in Texas and colored-bell peppers in Texas and Israel. The project received $25,000 each from TIE and JNF. In Texas, the research is based at Texas Agricultural Experiment Stations in Uvalde and Weslaco.

Sources: Texas Department of Agriculture; Israeli Consulate-Houston