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Sub-surface Drip Irrigation-Fertigation for Precision Management of Cotton

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  2010 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, June 20 - June 23, 2010  1009253.(doi:10.13031/2013.30029)
Authors:   Mark Dougherty, Abdelaziz Hamid Abdelgadir, John Fulton, Charles Burmester, Bobby Norris, David Harkins, Larry Curtis, Dale Monks
Keywords:   Subsurface drip irrigation, fertigation, fertilizer sidedressing, rainfall, cotton yield

Four years of field research are presented for a subsurface drip irrigation study installed at the Tennessee Valley Research and Extension Center in northern Alabama in 2006. Study objectives are to evaluate the effect of four precision fertigation management scenarios and a non-fertigated control on cotton yield, nutrient uptake, and lint quality. Approximately 7,500 feet of SDI tape and four positive displacement liquid fertilizer injectors were used to evaluate four replications of five nutrient timing treatments in a randomized complete block design. Each of the twenty treatment plots was made up of eight, 345-foot rows of cotton on 40-inch row spacing, with drip tape between every other row of cotton. In 2006, fertigated cotton yields were significantly higher than the surface-applied control. In 2007 and 2008, however, yield in surface-applied control was significantly higher than the fertigated treatments. Higher non-fertigated control versus fertigated yields in 2007 and 2008 were possibly due to beneficial downward movement of surface-applied fertilizer as a result of early season rainfall in 2007 and the leaching of fertigated nutrients beyond roots zone in 2008 after heavy seasonal rainfall. In 2009, overall yields in all treatments were lower and there was no significant difference between treatments. Fertigated cotton yields averaged 3.0, 2.9, 3.5, and 2.0 bales per acre and the control yields averaged 2.7, 3.1, 3.9, and 1.7 bales/acre in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009, respectively. Generally, surface sidedressing enhanced nutrient uptake over fertigation but none had a direct effect on cotton fiber quality. Results of this study indicate that surface sidedressing and fertigation are not mutually exclusive under rainfed cotton production; and observed response to SDI fertigation appears related to the amount and distribution of rainfall during the growing season.

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