Submitted to: Meeting Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/3/2006
Publication Date: 3/3/2006
Citation: Esparza, A.M., Gowda, P., Baumhardt, R.L., Robinson, C.A. 2006. Thermal viability of cotton production in the Ogallala Aquifer region. In: Proceedings of the West Texas A&M University 12th Annual Student Research Conference, March 3, 2006, Canyon, Texas. Interpretive Summary: Increased energy prices, less water requirements, and depleting groundwater levels in the Ogallala Aquifer, it is believed that cotton is a viable alternative crop to corn in southern and central high plains regions. However, there has been no formal study conducted to document available total heat units between planting and harvesting dates for cotton, and their frequency to determine feasibility to grow cotton in the Ogallala aquifer region. In this study, we used a county-wise daily maximum and minimum air temperature database to assess climatic suitability for farming cotton in the Ogallala aquifer region. Regression relationships between daily air and soil temperatures were developed to determine annually variable planting dates for cotton. Statistical analysis of the county-wise heat units indicated that 108 out of 131 counties received 1000o C or more heat units. As expected, counties in the southern High Plains region provide suitable climatic conditions to grow cotton as expected. Cotton planting is possible before May 10 in most counties. Significant water savings is possible if producers were to switch 50 percent of their irrigated corn acreage in counties where cotton can be grown.
Technical Abstract: Renewed interest in cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.) production in the Ogallala Aquifer region can be tied to the development of short-season varieties, rising energy costs, and declining water levels in the Ogallala Aquifer. However, the feasibility of growing cotton considering thermal characteristics of the region has not been determined. In this study, we evaluated thermal viability of cotton production in the Ogallala Aquifer region by calculating total heat units available during the growing season. For this purpose, a 30-year (1971-2000), county-wise daily maximum and minimum air temperature database was compiled. Two planting dates were used to calculate heat units: 1) a planting date of May 10 to meet crop insurance requirements and (2) an annual variable planting date based on estimated daily minimum soil temperature. A set of regression models was developed to predict soil temperature from daily minimum and maximum air temperature. The r2 values for regression models varied from 0.42-0.84 indicating that there is significant relation between daily soil and air temperatures in the region. Statistical analysis of the county-wise heat units indicated that 108 and 110 out of 131 counties received 1000o C or more heat units with May 10 and annually variable planting dates, respectively. Counties in the southern High Plains region provide suitable climatic conditions to grow cotton as expected. However, counties in the central high plains that include the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles and southern Kansas require varieties adapted for cooler and shorter growing seasons. Significant water savings is possible if producers were to switch 50 percent of their irrigated corn acreage in counties where cotton can be grown.