Optimal economic combination of irrigation technology and cotton varieties on the High Plains of Texas
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Cotton is the leading agricultural crop in the Texas High Plains. Cotton producers have experienced steady to declining cotton prices coupled with increasing input costs resulting in tightening profit margins. Many new and improved technologies including varieties and irrigations systems are being developed and used in production agriculture. Producers are adopting these new technologies; however, they need information on the proper management of these technologies to help maximize their returns and insure their continued profitability. Therefore, the objectives of this research were to determine the farm-level economic impact of the adoption of subsurface irrigation vs. center pivot irrigation, determine the farm level economic impact of the adoption of new, higher yielding and higher quality varieties, and determine the optimal combinations of applied irrigation water and variety selection for irrigated cotton farms on the Texas High Plains. Cotton yield and quality data collected from irrigation studies under different technologies and variety selection at the AG-CARES research farm at Lamesa, TX and the Helms research farm at Halfway, TX will be evaluated to meet these objectives. Gross margins and net returns above total variable and fixed irrigation costs were estimated for varieties and irrigation systems with different irrigation levels. The results obtained from this analysis showed that producers could increase gross margins by adopting new varieties. In addition, estimations showed that Sub Surface Drip Irrigation can produce higher net returns than Low Energy Precision Application center pivot systems. Estimations from two locations demonstrate the importance of managing production according to environmental factors. Top performing varieties differed between locations along with optimal irrigation levels. This analysis emphasizes the importance for cotton producers to be informed and properly manage their production.