The effects varying levels of deficit irrigation and episodic drought stress on West Texas cotton cultivars



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Water availability and plant water use efficiency are important issues facing cotton production in West Texas. Trials were conducted to compare the growth, gas exchange, yield, and quality of West Texas cultivars subjected to different levels and timings of water deficit. In the first experiment, cotton cultivars were subjected to consistent levels of irrigation, ranging from full irrigation to dryland after first square. In the second experiment, cultivars were exposed to episodic water deficit events during the season. The effects of irrigation treatments upon physiological parameters such as leaf photosynthesis, transpiration, and temperature, were measured, and agronomic water use efficiency was calculated for each treatment. An economic analysis was also performed to verify treatment profitability. Yield and most of the quality parameters presented were significantly affected by drought episode and cultivar selection. The data shows that in all years and locations the irrigation strategy with no irrigation interruption provided the best yields. Regarding episodic drought events, the highest reduction in yields was caused by irrigation interruption at the early flowering stage. Agronomic water use efficiency was affected by varying irrigation levels in two out of three years. In 2012, the agronomic water use efficiency observed on fully irrigated cultivars was statistically higher than for other irrigation levels. These results can be important in supporting the development of water management strategies for irrigated cotton.



Irrigation management, Water use efficiency, Irrigation timing, Gossypium hirsutum L, Fruit distribution, Gas exchange, Profitability