Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Improving the Crop Water Supply: a Key to Increasing Dryland and Cotton Yields

Authors
item Gerik, Thomas - BLACKLAND RESEARCH CENTER
item Lemon, Robert - TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY
item Abrameit, Archie - TEXAS AGRIC EXT SERVICE
item Mcfarland, Mark - TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY
item Cothren, J - TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY
item Krieg, Daniel - TEXAS TECH UNIVERSITY
item Torbert, Henry
item Morrison Jr, John

Submitted to: National Conservation Tillage Cotton and Rice Conference Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: January 30, 2001
Publication Date: January 30, 2001
Citation: Gerik, T.J., Lemon, R.G., Abrameit, A.H., McFarland, M.L., Cothren, J.T., Krieg, D.R., Torbert, H.A., Morrison Jr., J.E. Improving the crop water supply: A key to increasing dryland cotton yields. Proceedings of National Conservation Tillage Cotton and Rice Conference. 2001.

Interpretive Summary: In Texas, the most common problem for crop production when irrigation is not available is the lack of water. In most years, crop yield is directly proportional to the amount of water in the soil. Therefore, managing the soil water to maximize production is very important. Water evaporated from the soil surface represents a significant portion of the total water supply. Minimizing evaporative losses by changing the arrangement of plants in the field by changing row spacing could conserve sufficient water to substantially increase yield. A series of studies were conducted to examine how changing row spacing from 40 inches to 20 inches could affect yields of cotton, corn, and grain sorghum. The findings were dramatic and consistent over highly variable weather conditions. For cotton, we found that lint yield increased 7.5 lbs per acre for each 1.0-inch row spacing was reduced. For corn, grain yield increased 45 lbs per acre and for grain sorghum, yield increased 60 lbs per acre, for each 1.0-inch row spacing was reduced. We concluded that using very narrow row spacing could significantly improve production of cotton, corn, and grain sorghum yield in Texas.

Technical Abstract: Water deficit is the most common yield limitation of dryland crops in Texas. In most years yield is directly proportional to the water supply. But managing this precious resource to maximize production of dryland crops requires planning, capital, and a willingness to change on part of the grower. Water evaporated from the soil surface represents a significant portion of the total water supply. Minimizing evaporative losses by changing the arrangements of plants in the field to ultr- narrow rows (e.g., row spacing 20-inches or less) could conserve sufficient water to substantially increase yield. For 5-years, 1996 to 2000, we evaluated the impact of ultra-narrow rows productivity of cotton and the major crops grown in rotation with cotton, corn and grain sorghum. The findings were dramatic and consistent over highly variable weather conditions. For cotton, we found lint yield increased 7.5 lbs per acre for each 1.0-inch; row spacing was reduced from 40 to 7.5 inches. For corn and grain sorghum we found that grain yield increased 45 and 60 lbs per acre, respectively, for each inch row spacing was reduced between 40 to 20 inches. We conclude that ultra-narrow row production systems significantly improve dryland cotton, corn and grain sorghum yield.

Last Modified: 12/17/2014