Integrating cotton and beef production in the Texas southern high plains: I. Water use and measures of productivity

V. G. Allen, C. P. Brown, R. Kellison, P. Green, C. J. Zilverberg, P. Johnson, J. Weinheimer, T. Wheeler, E. Segarra, V. Acosta-Martinez, T. M. Zobeck, J. C. Conkwright

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38 Scopus citations


Texas High Plains agriculture largely dependent on water from the Ogallala aquifer for irrigation exemplifies semiarid agricultural regions where irrigation is used at nonsustainable rates of extraction. Integrating crop and livestock systems has been suggested to conserve water and to achieve other environmental and economic goals compared with monoculture systems. From 1998 to 2008 two large-scale systems with three blocks in a randomized block design compared irrigation water productivity chemical inputs and specific pests of (i) a cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.) monoculture and (ii) an integrated three-paddock system that included cotton in a two-paddock rotation with grazed wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) and rye (Secale cereale L.) and the perennial variety WW-B. Dahl old world bluestem (OWB) [Bothriochloa bladhii (Retz) S.T. Blake] in a third paddock for grazing and seed production. All paddocks were irrigated by subsurface drip. Angus crossbred beef steers (Bos taurus; initial BW 229 kg; SD = 33 kg) grazed 185 d from January to mid-July each year. During the 10 yr following the establishment year cotton lint yield was similar and averaged 1370 kg ha-1 for both systems. Bluestem seed yield averaged 25 kg pure live seed (PLS) ha-1. Steers gained 139 kg on pasture and 0.79 kg d-1. Per hectare the integrated system used 25% less (P < 0.001) irrigation water 36% less N fertilizer and fewer other chemical inputs than monoculture cotton. Integrated production systems that are less dependent on irrigation and chemical inputs appear possible while achieving goals of sustainability fiber production and food security.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1625-1642
Number of pages18
JournalAgronomy Journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2012


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