Irrigated cotton production in the Texas Rolling Plains and High Plains regions faces challenges from declining groundwater levels in the Seymour and Ogallala Aquifers. Recurrent droughts, combined with projected warmer and drier weather in the future, mean that production will require even larger groundwater withdrawals to meet crop water demands. Adoption of water-use-efficient irrigation strategies is therefore essential to sustain cotton production in these regions.
An information technology-based solution is needed that can help cotton producers in the Texas Rolling Plains and High Plains regions increase water-use efficiency by providing decision support for irrigation management. A possible approach is to utilize crop simulation and economic models to estimate cotton yield, irrigation water use, water-use efficiency, and farm income under different crop water stress-based irrigation management strategies. These models can rely on remote-sensed data from the field (i.e., canopy temperature and crop growth) in conjunction with historic and projected short-term forecasted weather data over the growing season. Based upon the projected outcomes, producers can then select the irrigation strategy that best fits their well capacities and expected profits.
A proof-of-concept irrigation management decision support system, idCROP, has been developed and is being validated within the Texas Rolling Plains region. This system utilizes the aforementioned irrigation management approach and is inexpensive, easy-to-use, and encompasses the modern accessibility of a smartphone app. Technology pilots have enabled evaluation of the developed system by selected producers under different crop production conditions (i.e., soils, irrigation capacities, and weather). This research was funded by the Texas A&M Water Seed Grant program, and was jointly conducted by Texas A&M AgriLife Research, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, and the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station in collaboration with the Gateway Groundwater Conservation District and the Rolling Plains Cotton Growers Incorporated.
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