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Increasing cotton yields with irrigation a product of soils and timing

You might think you would get your best response from irrigating cotton on your best soils. But you might need to think again, according to researchers at the West Tennessee Research and Education Center in Jackson. Brian Leib told farmers attending the UT Cotton Tour that researchers saw a bigger response to irrigating cotton on sandy soils than on the deeper silt loam soils at the station.

Leib said rain fed cotton planted on sandier soils produced an average of 400 pounds of lint in a study at the station. Irrigating that cotton on a regular schedule increased yields by about 800 pounds per acre. Meanwhile, the yield on cotton planted on a deep silt loam area of the station increased by about 300 pounds per acre when it was irrigated.  

It’s difficult for farmers to apply differing amounts of water to soils that range from shallow to deep silt loams, often in the same field. But Leib and other researchers at the University of Tennessee are able to apply from one-half inch, to one inch to one-and-a-half inches of water in replicated plots across a field and thus help farmers better understand the irrigation needs of their soils.

“Even in a wet year, we got a little bit of an irrigation response to a late application on some of our better soils on that side of the station,” said Leib. “So, being able to water in a timely fashion can make a difference even when we think we’re receiving ample rainfall.”

Cotton pickers in formation

Cotton harvest from above (photo gallery)

TAGS: Management
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