Robert Imel, Texas Tech University, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX and Dick L. Auld, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX
Cotton (Gossypium hirsutumL.) has long been the most profitable crop on the Texas High Plains. However, with continuing depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer levels, water-efficient, alternative crops have never been more important for sustainable crop production in this region. In this decade, years of a devastating drought even with supplemental irrigation has not provided sufficient water to make a sustainable and profitable cotton crop. Producers need profitable, alternative crops such as guar, sorghum, safflower, millet, and sesame for inclusion in their crop rotations. These five selected crops are able to produce reasonable yields without irrigation during years with average or above precipitation. Our hypothesis is that growing water-saving crops on a portion of the crop land will allow concentration of supplemental irrigation on high value cotton crops and ultimately improve the sustainability of alternative crops in the Texas High Plains agricultural industry.
Our growers would quickly accept an alternative crop that generates a net income with no or only limited irrigation that was competitive with a two-bale cotton crop. Data from Texas A&M AgriLife Budgets which compared break-even prices with current cotton prices were calculated for guar, sorghum, safflower, millet, and sesame at varying yield levels. These budgets provide producers an excellent tool to compare contract prices and anticipated yields of these alternate crops with an equivalent profit level for a two-bale cotton. We hope demonstration of both profitability and sustainability of these targeted alternative crops, will assist their acceptance by growers in this region.