Sustaining Texas Agriculture During Drought
By Jim De
January 24, 1997
A four-year drought has underscored the potential for new
sustainable-farming systems to save money, soil and water--and to increase crop
yields--for many south Texas farmers.
A feature story in the January Agricultural Research magazine
gives the details. To find out how to get the entire article, see the note at
The story tells how scientists with the Agricultural Research Service developed and
tested the first conservation tillage systems designed for growing cotton,
sorghum and corn in the semiarid, subtropical Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas.
Keys to conservation tillage are to leave crop residue on the surface and to
reduce deep plowing of the soil. These tactics reduce wind and water erosion.
They also conserve moisture in the soil. This is a critical benefit--especially
since drought has meant inadequate rainfall and restricted irrigation in many
areas of Texas and northern Mexico.
Field tests since 1993 indicate the scientists new conservation
tillage systems can increase net returns $30 to $50 an acre, partly by reducing
fuel and labor costs.
Cotton, sorghum and corn account for about half the typical annual $400
million value of all crops grown in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. While
relatively few of the growers use conservation tillage today, the drought--and
the scientists research results--are rapidly changing minds.
The article, Sustaining Agriculture in Drought Years, is
accessible on the World Wide Web at:
Scientific contact: Joe Bradford and Jim Smart, USDA-ARS
Research Laboratory, Weslaco, Texas, phone (210) 969-4812