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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: SUSTAINABLE AGRO-ECOSYSTEMS THAT CONTROL SOIL EROSION AND ENHANCE THE ENVIRONMENT

Location: Wind Erosion and Water Conservation Research

Title: Integrating cotton and beef production to reduce water withdrawal from the Ogallala Aquifer in the Southern High Plains: I. Ten-years of effect on water use and productivity

Authors
item Allen, Vivien -
item Brown, C -
item Kellison, R -
item Green, P -
item Zilverberg, C -
item Johnson, P -
item Weinheimer, J -
item Wheeler, T -
item Segarra, E -
item Acosta-Martinez, Veronica
item Zobeck, Teddy
item Conkwright, J -

Submitted to: Agronomy Journal
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: August 5, 2012
Publication Date: September 24, 2012
Citation: Allen, V.G., Brown, C.P., Kellison, R., Green, P., Zilverberg, C.J., Johnson, P., Weinheimer, J., Wheeler, T., Segarra, E., Acosta Martinez, V., Zobeck, T.M., Conkwright, J.C. 2012. Integrating cotton and beef production to reduce water withdrawal from the Ogallala Aquifer in the Southern High Plains: I. Ten-years of effect on water use and productivity. Agronomy Journal. 104(6):1625-1642.

Interpretive Summary: An interdisciplinary research team from Texas Tech University, Texas AgriLife, High Plains Underground Water Conservation District No. 1 and USDA-ARS has evaluated the economic profitability, energy and associated C cost, soil microbial community composition and functionality, soil aggregation and C distribution for integrated livestock and crop production systems in the Texas High Plains. In this region, agriculture is largely dependent on irrigation water from the Ogallala aquifer , however, the region is experiencing water availability problems due to significant reductions in the water available from this aquifer. Integrating crop and livestock production has been suggested to conserve water and to achieve other environmental and economic goals compared with monoculture cotton production. Thus, from 1998 to 2008, comparisons were made of replicated systems of 1) a cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.) monoculture, and 2) an integrated 3-paddock system that included cotton in a 2-paddock rotation with grazed wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) and rye (Secale cereale L.) and the perennial ‘WW-B. Dahl’ old world bluestem [Bothriochloa bladhii (Retz) S.T. Blake]) for grazing and seed production. During the 10 years of this experiment, cotton lint yield was similar and averaged 1,370 kg ha-1 for both systems. Bluestem seed yield averaged 25 kg pure live seed ha-1. Steers gained 139 kg on pasture and 0.79 kg d-1. Per hectare, the integrated system used 25% less (P < 0.001) irrigation water, 36% less N fertilizer, and fewer other chemical inputs than monoculture cotton. Integrated production systems that are less dependent on irrigation and chemical inputs appear possible while achieving goals of sustainability, fiber production, and food security.

Technical Abstract: Texas High Plains agriculture, largely dependent on water from the Ogallala aquifer for irrigation, exemplifies semi-arid agricultural regions where irrigation is used at non-sustainable rates of extraction. Integrating crop and livestock systems has been suggested to conserve water and to achieve other environmental and economic goals compared with monoculture systems. Thus, from 1998 to 2008, two large-scale systems, with 3 blocks in a randomized block design, compared water and other input use and productivity of 1) a cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.) monoculture, and 2) an integrated 3-paddock system that included cotton in a 2-paddock rotation with grazed wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) and rye (Secale cereale L.) and the perennial ‘WW-B. Dahl’ old world bluestem [Bothriochloa bladhii (Retz) S.T. Blake]) for grazing and seed production. All paddocks were irrigated by sub-surface drip. Angus crossbred beef steers (Bos taurus L.; initial BW 229 kg; SD= 33 kg) grazed 185 d from January to mid-July. During the 10 yr of this experiment following the establishment year, cotton lint yield was similar and averaged 1,370 kg ha-1 for both systems. Bluestem seed yield averaged 25 kg pure live seed ha-1. Steers gained 139 kg on pasture and 0.79 kg d-1. Per hectare, the integrated system used 25% less (P < 0.001) irrigation water, 36% less N fertilizer, and fewer other chemical inputs than monoculture cotton. Integrated production systems that are less dependent on irrigation and chemical inputs appear possible while achieving goals of sustainability, fiber production, and food security.

Last Modified: 7/30/2014