Two papers senior-authored by PSS graduate students were named divisional 2021 Outstanding Papers in Crop Science by the Crop Science Society of America (CSSA). The honor is awarded based on the scientific merit, novelty of approach, and innovation displayed in the students' research.
Both papers were entered in the CSSA Forage & Grazinglands division, which focuses on conservation and utilization in grazing systems, forage growth, nutrition value, management, and interactions with the environment. They each explore the balance between livestock nutrition, water conservation, and economic feasibility in the face of rapidly declining groundwater in the Texas High Plains.
One of the recognized papers — Effect of deficit irrigation on physiology and silage yield of BMR forage sorghum, BMR pearl millet, and corn — was led by Bishwoyog Bhattarai, a former master's student with Sukhbir Singh. It provides an analysis of forage sorghum and pearl millet as viable, relatively drought-tolerant alternatives to silage corn. As groundwater from the Ogallala aquifer is depleted, there is a push to develop alternatives to high water-demand practices, such as the production of silage corn to support the beef and dairy industries. To that end, Bhattarai's research assesses and compares the physiology, forage yield, and nutrient composition of the brown midrib forage sorghum, brown midrib pearl millet, and corn under deficit irrigation in the Texas High Plains based on field experimentation conducted in 2018 and 2019.
The other award-winning paper — authored by Madhav Dhakal, a former Ph.D. student of Chuck West — addresses the issue of water scarcity in the development of a cost-effective grassland system. The paper — Trade-off between nutritive value improvement and crop water use for an alfalfa-grass system — examines the effects of interseeding a variety of types and densities of alfalfa into native grass pastures to find a combination that is sparse enough and at low enough cost to minimize soil water depletion while significantly enhancing nutritive value.