Project Summaries

12-177FL  Project Manager: E. M. Barnes

EVALUATING SUBSURFACE DRIP FOR IRRIGATING AND FERTILIZING COTTON IN THE FLORIDA PANHANDLE

Ronnie Schnell and Barry J. Brecke, University of Florida

Subsurface drip irrigation is a common practice for fruit and vegetable crops in Florida and could offer benefits for cotton production as well. Benefits of drip irrigation include water conservation, increased yields and uniformity, and reduced fertilizer, energy and labor inputs. Reports from Texas, Arkansas and Alabama reveal significant increases in lint yield for cotton grown using subsurface drip. However, the effects and potential benefits of subsurface drip on cotton yield for soil types and climatic conditions found in Florida are unknown. Therefore, the objectives of this project are to: 1) Quantify cotton yield in response to irrigation method (dryland, sprinkler or subsurface drip) in the Florida panhandle; and 2) Quantify lint yield for cotton grown using subsurface drip in response to fertilization method (surface broadcast or fertigation).

Four replications of 4 irrigation treatments for cotton production comprised a randomized block design at the WFREC Jay Research Facility in Jay, Florida. Four irrigation scenarios were evaluted: overhead sprinkler, subsurface drip (100% ET replacement), and subsurface drip (75% ET replacement) compared to a non-irrigated control. Subsurface drip and sprinkler irrigation were applied approximately every three days to replace evapotranspiration (modified Penman-Monteith equation) minus rainfall (ET-rainfall). All treatments received a split application of broadcast fertilizer, P, K and micronutrient fertilizer incorporated pre-plant and remaining nitrogen surface applied pre-bloom. Cotton yield was measured and used to compare irrigation treatments.

Frequent and excessive rainfall occurred throughout the duration of the growing season. ET exceeded rainfall for a period during late June prompting the scheduling of and irrigation. One irrigation was applied to provide 0.6 inches of water at 100% ET replacement for the corresponding treatment. A rainfall amount of 1.2 inches was recorded the day following the irrigation. Rainfall precluded application of irrigation the remainder of the growing season; therefore, not irrigation treatment effects were observed.

The second objective of our project was to evaluate the response of cotton to injection of N-fertilizer through subsurface tape. A commercial applicator inadvertently applied N fertilizer to the entire plot area, compromising the second objective of the project. Despite challenges encountered during the current growing season, the use of subsurface drip for irrigating and fertilizing crops in the area has significant potential. Growers had the opportunity to observe tape injection equipment, irrigation design and field scale application of drip technology. Many farmers expressed interest in drip irrigation and are likely to consider use of the technology when installing irrigation systems.

 

Project Year: 2012
 

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