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ARS Home » Plains Area » Lubbock, Texas » Cropping Systems Research Laboratory » Wind Erosion and Water Conservation Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #240263

Title: Long-Term Dryland Cropping Systems and Their Impact on Selected Soil Parameters in the Texas High Plains

item Booker, Jill
item Acosta-Martinez, Veronica
item Zobeck, Teddy

Submitted to: ASA-CSSA-SSSA Annual Meeting Abstracts
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/1/2009
Publication Date: 11/5/2009
Citation: Booker, J.D., Acosta Martinez, V., Zobeck, T.M. 2009. Long-Term Dryland Cropping Systems and Their Impact on Selected Soil Parameters in the Texas High Plains[abstract]. American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science Society of America. November 1-5, 2009. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Due to the decline of the Ogallala aquifer and the increasing dryland crop production, efforts are needed to enhance soil quality and functioning, and particularly water holding capacity of dryland soils in the semi-arid Texas High Plains (THP). The predominant cropping system in the THP involves dryland production of continuous cotton, which does not produce much residue that could be incorporated and the soil surface is exposed most of the year during fallow periods. We need to provide dryland producers with alternative cropping practices that would improve the soil’s ability to capture rainfall, and thus, maintain adequate crop yields. Studies in humid regions have shown that crop rotations can increase soil quality, and that improvements in organic matter (OM) can be associated with increases in soil water holding capacity; however, these improvements are more difficult to achieve in low OM soils, which are characteristic of arid and semi-arid climates. In 2002, a dryland study was implemented to examine the effects of tillage and crop rotation treatments on soil quality using selected chemical (soil pH, total C and N, and nutrient contents), physical (bulk density, aggregate stability, and water infiltration) and microbial (microbial biomass and composition, and enzyme activities) parameters. Eight years after the implementation of alternative management practices, measurements of water infiltration rates were used to examine any differences that might be related to changes in soil quality. Economic considerations were also evaluated to address challenges facing producers when deciding to implement alternative cropping systems to enhance the long-term viability of dryland agriculture in the THP.