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Economic penalties associated with irrigation during high rainfall years in the southeastern United States

Yangxuan Liu, John L. Snider, Anukul Bhattarai and Guy Collins

Agricultural Water Management, 2022, vol. 272, issue C

Abstract: Although cotton is a drought-tolerant crop, irrigation is still needed to ensure productivity, even in the humid Southeastern United States. Irrigation must be carefully managed to limit unnecessary water use while ensuring maximum economic productivity. To better understand the costs and net returns of irrigation and cultivar selection, field experiments were conducted in 2016 and 2017 to compare cotton lint yield and fiber quality in dryland plots and plots irrigated using the University of Georgia checkbook method (UGA Checkbook) at a field site near Camilla, Georgia. Results showed cultivar differences in fiber quality parameters of micronaire and uniformity in 2016, but there was no cultivar difference in fiber quality in 2017. Cultivar differences were not observed in yield or net returns for both years. However, stoplight chart analysis of net returns indicated differences in cultivar selection for irrigated or dryland production. ST 6182 GLB2 would be a better option for a producer to minimize downside risk under dryland conditions, and PHY 333 WRF would be a better option under irrigated production. Results also indicated that broadly applying simplistic water balance approaches could decrease yield, water productivity, and net returns, especially in environments where rainfall is sufficient yet unpredictable. Overirrigation affected some fiber quality parameters but did not impact the overall market price for cotton. In 2016, irrigating according to the UGA Checkbook method negatively impacted yield and net returns. In 2017, irrigation did not affect yield but negatively impacted net returns. Average losses in net returns associated with excessive irrigation in these two wet years were $336 per hectare for net return over irrigation variable costs, and $645 per hectare for net return over irrigation total costs. Implementing robust, efficient irrigation strategies is necessary to achieve high cotton yields, reduce water usage, and improve economic returns.

Keywords: Cotton; Irrigation scheduling; Over-irrigation; Yield; Fiber quality; Profitability (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2022
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DOI: 10.1016/j.agwat.2022.107825

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