Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/20/2006
Publication Date: 9/20/2006
Citation: Johnson, R.M., Bradow, J.M., Wrona, A.F. 2006. Site Specific Management of Cotton Production in the United States. In: A. Srinivasan (ed). Handbook of Precision Agriculture: Principles and Applications. Haworth Press, Inc., Binghamton, NY. p. 353-378.
Technical Abstract: Site-specific management or precision agriculture, as it is evolving in large-scale crop production, offers promising new methods for managing cotton production for optimized yields, maximized profitability, and minimized environmental pollution. However, adaptation of site-specific theory and methodology, which have been developed primarily for large-scale grain production, entails overcoming some serious obstacles related to regional production practices and crop valuation methods prevalent in U.S. cotton production. For example, if major cotton-producing counties in the U.S. Cotton Belt are grouped according to genotypes grown, planting dates, growing-season lengths, harvest methods, quality of fiber produced, and fiber end use, five or six general regions become apparent: Coastal, Humid Southeast Upland, Delta, Texas High Plains, California/Arizona Desert, and Short-Season Border. Because the genotypes grown, the region-related soil types and landforms, and the weather conditions vary significantly in and among these regions, fiber properties and end-use also differ greatly from region to region and within the generalized regions listed. Production practices also vary significantly among these regions, and a site-specific strategy that works well in the laser-leveled, irrigated fields of Arizona or California may easily prove ineffective in the hilly fields where non-irrigated cotton is grown in the Humid Southeast. Like grain producers, cotton farmers must cope with spatial variability in yield, but development of effective, affordable cotton yield monitors is lagging behind comparable developments in grain production. Without the geospatial information afforded by functional yield monitors, cotton yield maps have been constructed from time- and labor-intensive grids and transects that describe relatively small sectors of any given field. Still further away in the developmental pipeline are the affordable, dependable cotton quality monitors that could quantify the spatial variability in economically important fiber properties, such as length, strength, and maturity. The cotton-growing regions of the U.S. are well covered by GPS satellites and the differential beacon system that facilitates construction of sub-meter geopositional maps of soils, yields, and fiber properties. Application of remote sensing technology is advancing in several regions of the U.S. Cotton Belt where forward-thinking growers have established alliances with sectors of the U.S. space program. Remote sensing, the grower’s historical knowledge of his own fields, and geopositional mapping of yields and fiber properties are being used to develop zoned-management prescriptions that optimize cultural inputs and segregate higher quality fiber during harvest. In this chapter we will provide an overview of the current status of site-specific management in the various cotton-producing regions of the U.S. while identifying further opportunities for collaboration and research on a regional and general basis. Site-specific management of cotton production will be examined through the geospatial [GIS] layers that constitute the soil-to-satellite continuum with emphasis on current applications and potential uses in the near future.