Location: Soil and Water Management ResearchTitle: Improving water productivity in cotton using mobile drip irrigation technology
Submitted to: Meeting Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/2/2023
Publication Date: 10/18/2023
Citation: O'Shaughnessy, S.A., Colaizzi, P.D. 2023. Improving water productivity in cotton using mobile drip irrigation technology. Proceedings of the U.S. Committee on Irrigation and Drainage Conference, October 17-20, 2023, Ft. Collins, Colorado.
Interpretive Summary: Limited water resources in the Southern Great Plains area is driving local producers to grow crops that use less water and to find more efficient methods to apply irrigation. Cotton can be produced in the Texas High Plains region using limited water, if there are enough warm days. Mobile drip irrigation technology outfits surface dripline onto existing center pivot systems, allowing water to be applied on the ground near the plants with less evaporation than sprinkler systems. However, the advantages of mobile drip irrigation (MDI) have not been well documented. In this two-year study, MDI was compared with low elevation application (LESA). Overall lint yield was greater for MDI cotton as compared with LESA in both years. Lint yield per unit of water applied was greater in the first year, yet not significantly different in the second year, likely due to a late intensive rainfall event. The MDI technology has the potential to improve lint yield per unit of water applied, however more studies are needed to develop best management practices with MDI for cotton production.
Technical Abstract: In the Southern Great Plains (SGP) region, the greatest amount of water withdrawn from the non-replenishing Ogallala Aquifer is for irrigated agriculture, leading to diminishing well capacities on many farms. Due to this limitation and unpredictable seasonal rainfall, producers are seeking alternative crops and improved irrigation application methods. In this two year study conducted in 2021 and 2022, mobile drip irrigation (MDI) technology was compared with low elevation spray application (LESA). Irrigations were scheduled to replenish 75% (I75) and 50% (I50) of soil water depletion to near field capacity using the integrated crop water stress index (iCWSI) thresholds and corresponding irrigation levels controlled by the Irrigation Scheduling Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (ISSCADA) system in 2021 and weekly neutron probe readings in 2022. Performance of LESA and MDI technology were assessed by comparing crop responses between application methods at the two irrigation levels. Results in 2021demonstrated that overall lint yield and irrigation water productivity (IWP) were significantly greater for cotton produced with MDI. Results for 2022, again demonstrated that overall lint yield was greater for the MDI treatment plots. Although mean IWP between methods was not significantly different, IWP was 46% and 30% less for LESA irrigated treatment plots as compared with MDI treatment plots at the I75 and I50 levels, respectively. Mobile drip irrigation technology has the potential to improve IWP by producing greater lint yield per unit of water applied in the SGP region. However, due to variable climatic conditions and precipitation events from season to season, more studies are needed to investigate best management practices with MDI for cotton production in the SGP region.