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ARS Home » Plains Area » Bushland, Texas » Conservation and Production Research Laboratory » Soil and Water Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #359181

Research Project: Precipitation and Irrigation Management to Optimize Profits from Crop Production

Location: Soil and Water Management Research

Title: Response of drought tolerant corn to varying irrigation levels in the Texas High Plains

item O`Shaughnessy, Susan
item KIM, MINYOUNG - Korean Rural Development Administration
item ANDRADE, MANUEL - Orise Fellow
item Colaizzi, Paul
item Evett, Steven - Steve

Submitted to: Transactions of the ASABE
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/10/2019
Publication Date: 10/22/2019
Publication URL:
Citation: O'Shaughnessy, S.A., Kim, M., Andrade, M.A., Colaizzi, P.D., Evett, S.R. 2019. Response of drought tolerant corn to varying irrigation levels in the Texas High Plains. Transactions of the ASABE. 62(5):1365-1375.

Interpretive Summary: Cattle production is important to the economy of the Texas High Plains (THP) region and corn is a major feed ingredient. Most farmers in the region produce irrigated corn, drawing water from the non-replenishing Ogallala Aquifer. The crop generally requires upwards of 25 inches of irrigation per season. Drought tolerant (DT) corn varieties may save irrigation water but there is little data to support this. There is also concern that climate variability and unpredictable rainfall patterns will result in inconsistent performance of DT varieties. In this three-year study, ARS scientists report water requirements and DT grain yields produced under center pivot sprinklers in recent years in the THP region and compare with corn produced at Bushland for the past 20 years. The study shows that mid-season DT corn can produce grain yields typical for the region in different climates. The study also shows that corn planted later in the growing season can save water required to fully meet crop water needs, however, grain yields will be less than corn planted earlier in the growing season.

Technical Abstract: Corn (Zea mays L.) for grain continues to be an important crop for livestock feed in the Texas High Plains region despite lackluster prices. It offers greater crop water productivity compared with other crops grown in the region, but also has a relatively high water requirement, which must be met by irrigation. The sole water resource in the region is the Ogallala Aquifer, which is declining because withdrawals exceed recharge, and this is of major concern. Producers are interested in the performance of drought tolerant (DT) corn, but data on DT crop production functions are limited. From 2015 – 2017, studies of DT corn response to different irrigation treatments were conducted in the Texas High Plains. Results showed that grain yields, seasonal evapotranspiration (ET) and crop water use efficiency (WUE) vary significantly between seasons and amongst different DT hybrids. Comparisons between a mid-season (MS) and an early maturing (EM) hybrid showed: (1) at the severely deficit irrigation treatment level, grain yields were low, however, the EM hybrid produced 400 percent more grain; (2) at the moderate deficit irrigation treatment level, grain yields and ET were similar; and (3) at the full irrigation treatment level, the EM hybrid required 75mm less water, however, it produced 24 percent less grain. Non-hail damaged MS DT corn produced grain yields that were numerically greater than conventional corn grown in the Texas High Plains in an optimal year.