In Press: PSS’s Ritchie part of research team studying Texas pima cotton option
By: Norman Martin
Recently, Dennis O'Brien, a public affairs specialist with the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Beltsville, Maryland, detailed the work of a cotton-focused research team that included Glen Ritchie, chair of Texas Tech University's Department of Plant and Soil Science. Here's part of the report.
Cotton growers in Texas face unpredictable rainfall, limited water for irrigation and fluctuating prices for the Upland cotton they produce. With such problems becoming more pronounced each year, they might want to consider new options such as Pima cotton production.
Upland cotton is used in a wide variety of products, and growers in the Texas High Plains have been producing it for years because it is well suited to the region's hot, dry climate. But there is increasing interest in producing Pima cotton there because it is higher quality and it fetches prices that are up to 50 percent higher. Pima cotton, when irrigated, grows well in El Paso, and parts of Arizona, California and New Mexico.
But a key question for Texas producers is how well Pima cotton would perform with the limited water available and under a climate with a shorter growing season. About 40 percent of the cotton produced in the Texas High Plains is irrigated, water that comes from the Ogallala Aquifer; a water resource that is not accessible to many growers and is being depleted.
The team found that the Upland cotton produced higher yields, but that the Pima cotton produced better fiber quality over both years at all irrigation levels. In plots with enough water for irrigation, the Upland cotton was more profitable. But in plots with reduced irrigation, the quality of the Upland cotton was degraded to a point where it would have to be sold at discounted prices, making in some instances, the Pima cotton more profitable under reduced irrigation levels.
"The results show that Upland cotton responds to irrigation so that if you can irrigate, it is probably the best choice. But if water is in short supply and you can't irrigate, Pima might be the best option with adapted varieties for specific regions," said Agricultural Research Service Agronomist Travis Witt. The findings could also apply to areas beyond the Texas High Plains where water is scarce, he said.
The researchers compared key qualities of Pima and Upland cotton produced for two years under four irrigation levels in test plots in Lubbock. They grew two Pima lines and two Upland varieties at four irrigation levels: full irrigation, at 50 and 25 percent of that level, and in plots watered only by rainfall. They then evaluated the cotton produced for its lint quality, yield and other key traits.
The study was led by Witt, along with ARS researchers Mauricio Ulloa and Robert Schwartz, who are based in Lubbock and Bushland, respectively. Also on the team was Glen Ritchie, chair of Texas Tech University's Department of Plant and Soil Science. Ritchie is an expert on the environmental factors affecting cotton yield and quality. He helped oversee the project in addition serving as Witt's Ph.D. advisor while the work was conducted in Lubbock.
CONTACT: Glen Ritchie, Department Chair, Department of Plant and Soil Science, Texas Tech University at (806) 742-4325 or firstname.lastname@example.org