Soil water depleted by the cover crop was quickly replenished by spring precipitation.
Higher soil water was maintained during the cotton growing season under the cover crop treatment.
Cover crops improved soil organic carbon under both irrigated and dryland conditions.
Cover crops enhanced crop water productivity under both irrigated and dryland conditions.
Abstract.Cover crops provide many soil health benefits to agricultural systems. An interest in growing cover crops in cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.) production systems has been increasing in the Texas Rolling Plains (TRP) region. Due to limited rainfall and groundwater availability, producers in this semi-arid region are concerned that winter cover crops can reduce soil water availability for a subsequent cotton crop. In addition, the long-term effects of cover crops on soil organic carbon (SOC) are not well studied in this region. The overall goal of this study was to assess the long-term effects of growing a winter wheat (Triticum aestivum) cover crop on soil water, SOC, seed cotton yield, and crop water productivity (CWP) under irrigated and dryland cotton production systems using the Decision Support System for Agrotechnology Transfer (DSSAT) model. Measured data from cover crop experiments conducted at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research Station at Chillicothe from 2011 to 2020 were used to evaluate the CROPGRO-Cotton and CERES-Wheat modules in the DSSAT Cropping System Model. The average percent error (PE) between the simulated and measured seed cotton yield was 0.3% and -0.9%, and that between the simulated and measured aboveground wheat biomass was 1.4% and -3.4% during the calibration and evaluation periods, respectively. For the simulation of SOC, the PE was 8.5% and 7.6% during the calibration and evaluation periods, respectively. Long-term (2001 to 2020) simulations showed that soil water was reduced substantially by the winter wheat cover crop before its termination. However, depleted soil water was quickly replenished by spring precipitation and maintained at a higher level during the cotton growing season. Winter wheat cover crops can potentially improve SOC in irrigated and dryland cotton production systems. The CWP of cotton also improved with a winter wheat cover crop under both irrigated and dryland conditions. We concluded that cover crops could potentially improve soil health and provide a sustainable environment for TRP cotton production. Keywords: CERES-Wheat, CROPGRO-Cotton, DSSAT, Soil health, Texas Rolling Plains (TRP).