Development of New Cropping Systems for the Texas High Plains
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Cotton remains the dominant crop for the Texas High/Rolling Plains region, with 3.3 million acres planted and 3.82 million balesharvested in 2009 (NASS 2009). It is estimated that 70% of Texas cotton is exported and must be marketable, both in terms ofprice and quality to compete in global markets. Producers must increase efficiencies by utilizing new technologies includingimproved transgenic varieties, tillage systems, and irrigation technology. Advances in genetics have improved fiber quality,however other quality parameters related to crop maturity vary due to weather and crop management. Integrated productionsystems must be developed to optimize yield, profitability and more importantly, lint quality. An economically andenvironmentally sustainable cropping system must optimize soil and water resources, manage insects, weeds, and diseases,and respond to changing commodity markets. Two trends which influence cropping systems include the adoption ofconservation/no till systems and herbicide-tolerant crops. The Texas Southern High Plains (TSHP) is a semi-arid region withapproximately 50% of crop acreage irrigated from the non-recharging Ogallala aquifer. Improved irrigation technology, such aslow-energy precision application (LEPA) and more recently sub-surface drip (SDI) has made irrigation more viable where wateris limited. These systems have replaced furrow irrigation and allowed producers to use water more efficiently, but have notreduced the quantity of water pumped. Returns are higher from cotton than from alternative crops leading to a cottonmonoculture. Crop rotations, when combined with conservation tillage can have significant impacts on soil, crop yields andprofitability.........