Sustainable Systems Phase I (complete)
Texas High Plains crop production has used precipitation and supplemental irrigation with water pumped from the Ogallala aquifer at rates that far exceed recharge for many years. Over 25% of the U.S. cotton (Gossypium hirsutum) crop is produced in this once vast grassland. Most of this cotton is produced in monoculture systems that are economically risky and contribute to wind induced erosion and depletion of ground water resources. Although large numbers of cattle are found in this region, little integration of livestock and crop production exists. Integrated crop-livestock systems could improve nutrient cycling, reduce soil erosion, improve water management, interrupt pest cycles, and spread economic risk through diversification. Cotton yields per acre may be increased through complementary effects of forages and livestock. Thus, two systems were to be compared: 1) a Conventional Irrigated Cotton System using best management practices; and 2) an Alternative Integrated Crop-Livestock System for production of both cotton and stocker steers. The Alternative System integrates cotton in rotation with forages for grazing by steers. Criteria for evaluating these systems included plant and animal product quantity and quality, net profits, water use, soil conservation and fertility, and input requirements of pesticides, fertilizers, and mechanical operations. Information was to be extended through educational opportunities, publications, field days, involvement of producers and industry as full partners, and linkage with other research sites.
Specific Objectives for Phase I included:
- To compare productivity, profitability, and impact on natural resources of continuous cotton systems, all forage-livestock systems, and an integrated cotton-forage/livestock system.
- To involve local producers and industry in identifying researchable needs, in developing and testing systems of production, in the development of more effective dissemination of information to end users, and enhanced adoption of new technologies.
- To link this research with sustainable systems research in other ecoregions to increase the base of knowledge and understanding of the principles that apply to integrated systems.
There are various journal articles written on Phase I of this research and may be found in Publications under Vivien Allen. These include soil microbial and chemical and physical properties by Acosta-Martinez et. al, 2004 (Refereed Article # 68), the first 5 year results of this study by Allen et. al 2005 (Refereed Article # 71), Allen et. al, 2007 (Refereed Article #76), and Allen et. al, 2006 (Refereed Article # 80). Other articles derived directly from this research include Master's and Dissertation Thesis by Collins, 2003 (Masters Thesis #16), Jones, 2003 (Masters Thesis #17), and Duch, 2005 (Dissertation #12).
Newer articles by Allen et. al incorporated management, variety and other changes to the systems and represent real world pressures and adaptations to better represent the actual conditions and practices in use at the time while maintaining the overall longterm integrity of the research.