Project Summaries

12-045IH  Project Manager: E. M. Barnes


Ed M. Barnes, Cotton Incorporated

Cotton will play an important role in the future of areas such as West Texas when existing water resources are depleted, as it will be one of few crops that will be able to survive these environments without irrigation. However, with present varieties, there will be large yield penalties most years without supplemental irrigation that may threaten the economic variability of cotton due to increasing input costs (seed, fertilizer, fuel, etc.). Identifying varieties that have good drought tolerance is difficult as most breeding programs require irrigation to insure enough plants survive each year to advance the line. New water stress monitoring systems being developed for cotton producers also show potential promise to help research and extension personnel better characterize the level of drought stress that occurs on a non-irrigated variety trial. The objective of this project is to develop a soil moisture site index that could have the potential to help identify varieties that perform better under drought conditions.

The focus in 2012 was to determine the number of soil moisture sensors that would be needed to characterize a variety trial location. The experiment was conducted at four locations to achieve a range of environments: Maricopa, AZ; Lubbock, TX; Marianna, AR; and Florence, SC. At each site, 3 varieties with 4 replications were instrumented with soil moisture sensors to provide real time monitoring of plant available moisture in the root zone. Decagon EC-5 sensors were placed at three depths in the soil profile: 6, 12, and 24 inches. An additional location of 3-inch was monitored at the Florence site, while the remainder of the sites monitored 36 inches. All data from the sensors were wirelessly transmitted to a central data logger that was then sent via cellular modem in near real-time using hardware and software from PurseSense®. At the Mariana location, infrared thermometers were used to monitor canopy temperature using a system from SmartField™.

A soil moisture stress index was constructed by using soil moisture sensor derived plant available water (PAW).  When PAW fell below 0.5, stress was accumulated. Both the stress index from the SmartField system and using the soil moisture sensors both provided a high correlation to yield. The results of this study indicated that the best way to instrument variety trials will be to place sensors in a common variety across locations. More details on this study are reported under projects 12-338 (Arkansas site details and overall data analysis for all sites) and 12-339 (South Carolina site details).


Project Year: 2012

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