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Agronomy Journal Abstract - Agronomy, Soils & Environmental Quality

Integrating Cotton and Beef Production in the Texas Southern High Plains: I. Water Use and Measures of Productivity


This article in AJ

  1. Vol. 104 No. 6, p. 1625-1642
    Received: Apr 13, 2012
    Published: September 24, 2012

    * Corresponding author(s): vivien.allen@ttu.edu
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  1. V. G. Allen *a,
  2. C. P. Browna,
  3. R. Kellisona,
  4. P. Greena,
  5. C. J. Zilverbergab,
  6. P. Johnsonc,
  7. J. Weinheimerc,
  8. T. Wheelerd,
  9. E. Segarrac,
  10. V. Acosta-Martineze,
  11. T. M. Zobecke and
  12. J. C. Conkwrightf
  1. a Dep. of Plant and Soil Science, Texas Tech Univ., Lubbock, TX 79409-2122
    b current address: Dep. of Natural Resource Management, South Dakota State Univ., Brookings, SD 57007
    c Dep. of Agricultural and Applied Economics, Texas Tech Univ., Lubbock, TX 79409
    d Texas AgriLife Research, Lubbock, TX 79403
    e USDA-ARS, Lubbock, TX 79415
    f High Plains Underground Water Conservation District No. 1, Lubbock, TX 79411-2499


Texas High Plains agriculture, largely dependent on water from the Ogallala aquifer for irrigation, exemplifies semiarid agricultural regions where irrigation is used at nonsustainable rates of extraction. Integrating crop and livestock systems has been suggested to conserve water and to achieve other environmental and economic goals compared with monoculture systems. From 1998 to 2008, two large-scale systems, with three blocks in a randomized block design, compared irrigation water, productivity, chemical inputs, and specific pests of (i) a cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.) monoculture, and (ii) an integrated three-paddock system that included cotton in a two-paddock rotation with grazed wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) and rye (Secale cereale L.) and the perennial variety WW-B. Dahl old world bluestem (OWB) [Bothriochloa bladhii (Retz) S.T. Blake] in a third paddock for grazing and seed production. All paddocks were irrigated by subsurface drip. Angus crossbred beef steers (Bos taurus; initial BW 229 kg; SD = 33 kg) grazed 185 d from January to mid-July each year. During the 10 yr following the establishment year, cotton lint yield was similar and averaged 1370 kg ha−1 for both systems. Bluestem seed yield averaged 25 kg pure live seed (PLS) ha−1. Steers gained 139 kg on pasture and 0.79 kg d−1. Per hectare, the integrated system used 25% less (P < 0.001) irrigation water, 36% less N fertilizer, and fewer other chemical inputs than monoculture cotton. Integrated production systems that are less dependent on irrigation and chemical inputs appear possible while achieving goals of sustainability, fiber production, and food security.

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Copyright © 2012. Copyright © 2012 by the American Society of Agronomy, Inc.