While cotton is typically considered to be a mostly drought-resistant crop, the Texas Plains are a place where crops like these are constantly threatened by the ever-looming possibility of a dry season.
For that reason, timing is everything when it comes to producing the highest, most successful crop yield possible. Timing in regards to irrigation termination is no exception, and it (along with the amount of moisture) can affect yield, quality, and production efficiencies, for better or for worse. Irrigation termination in cotton production is calculated by several factors including:
- Developmental stage
- Soil type (and holding capacity)
- Type of irrigation being used
- Boll load
- Crop health
Typically, Deltapine recommends terminating irrigation upon the first cracked boll for furrow irrigation and ten days after the first cracked boll for pivot/drip irrigation systems. However, decisions regarding when to terminate irrigation should be made based on the factors listed above and on a field-by-field basis. Failing to terminate irrigation at an appropriate time can lead to a variety of problems including inconsistent boll development, boll rot, and hard lock to name a few.
While these are considered the best traditional practices, a recent study conducted by Dr. Glen Ritchie at Texas Tech University may suggest that an even earlier irrigation termination may be key to better future yields. In this study, Ritchie found that less water applied earlier in the growing season does affect plant size, but does not affect plant yield or fiber quality. The results of the study also indicate that the best time for irrigation application is in the middle of the growing season.
“As a rule,” Southwest FarmPress said about Ritchie’s findings, “the study results [indicate] cotton producers in the Texas Plains should irrigate only enough to help a crop out of the ground and save irrigation reserves until flowering stage when more water will be needed. Additional water will be required through break-out, but by limiting early irrigation rates, plants will be more adaptable to drought conditions in the long term.”
As you’ll see, effectively timing irrigation termination is essential for multiple reasons. This is something to keep in mind as we make our way out of summertime and into the harvest season.
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