Cotton: How much water is needed to make a bale per acre: Part I

As farmers search for more ways to reduce costs and risk in 2016, making the best use of irrigation may offer a lot of potential for improving bottom lines, a Plainview, Texas-based cotton consultant says.

Bob Glodt, president of Agri-Search in Plainview, has been working with cotton producers on the High Plains for more than 30 years. In recent years, he’s been increasingly turning his attention to irrigation management.

“I have learned when you’re irrigating at a percentage of potential evapo-transpiration (PET), it takes a lot less water than you think to go from one bale to two bales or two bales to three bales per acre,” says Glodt, who spoke at the Consultants Conference at the 2015 Beltwide Cotton Conferences in San Antonio.

“I have found that if a farmer learns to irrigate and manage his crop at a specific percentage of PET, the yields all become more predictable.” (The 2016 Beltwide Cotton Conferences will begin with the Consultants Conference in New Orleans Tuesday (Jan. 5).

Glodt began conducting water use efficiency trials 10 years ago after asking himself “some pretty basic questions” about irrigating cotton. Among those: How much water does it take to make one bale per acre? How much more water will it take to make two bales per acre or three bales per acre?

“I doubt there is anyone in here who can say how much water it takes to make one bale per acre,” he said at the Beltwide. “The first thing you would probably say is “If you can tell me the planting date, or when the irrigation or rainfall will be applied or occur, or if you can give me the soil-water holding capacity, I can probably come pretty close” to the number.

It’s ironic, he said, that this is the same information that’s used to develop evapo-transpiration data. “So if you’re trying to correlate yields with water demand, you’re going to need to know how much water is used on a daily basis by the cotton crop.”

On the second question – does it take twice as much water to make two bales to the acre as it does to one bale per acre – “we’re going to assume, for all practical purposes, that we know exactly how much water it took to make one bale per acre,” he says.

“We’re going to take that model and we’re going to add more water. So how much more water does it take to make two bales compared to what it took for one bale,” Glodt says. “I think we can all agree that it won’t take twice as much, and, actually, this is a much easier question to answer than the first question.”

When most farmers irrigate, they’s simply grateful to be able to put water on the crop. “We really don’t have a targeted irrigation response in mind, we’re just irrigating with whatever our capacity is,” he notes.

The key is to manage the crop at a specific percentage of irrigation to achieve the goals the farmer sets out.

To learn more about or to register for this year’s Beltwide Cotton Conferences, visit http://www.cotton.org/beltwide/index.cfm

 

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