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Assessing the Impacts of Future Climate on Cotton Production in the Arizona Low Desert

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

Citation:  Transactions of the ASABE. 63(4): 1087-1098. (doi: 10.13031/trans.13731) @2020
Authors:   Ibukun Timothy Ayankojo, Kelly R. Thorp, Kelly Morgan, Kritika Kothari, Srinivasulu Ale
Keywords:   . Arid region, CSM-CROPGRO-Cotton, Future climate, Gossypium hirsutum L., Heat stress, Irrigation demand.


Cotton yield was reduced significantly under projected future climate conditions for the Arizona low desert (ALD). Of all the weather variables, yield reduction was primarily due to projected increases in daily maximum and minimum air temperatures.

Cotton reproductive stages were more susceptible to heat stress than vegetative stages. Projected increases in air temperature may result in a slight increase in cotton growth or biomass production; however, heat stress significantly reduced fruit retention, leading to lower boll number and yield.

Although future increases in CO2 may improve plant growth and productivity, the potential benefit of CO2 fertilization on cotton growth and yield in the ALD was offset by the projected increase in air temperature.

The projected average seasonal irrigation requirement increased by at least 10%. This suggests that greater demand for freshwater withdrawal for agriculture can be expected in the future. Therefore, given the projected change in future climate, cotton cultivars tolerant of longer periods of high air temperature, changes in planting dates, and improved management practices for higher water productivity are critical needs for sustainable cotton production in the ALD.

Abstract. Cotton is an important crop in Arizona, with a total cash value of approximately $200 million for fiber and cottonseed in 2018. In recent years, heat stress from increasing air temperature has reduced cotton productivity in the Arizona low desert (ALD); however, the effects of future climate on ALD cotton production have not been studied. In this study, the DSSAT CSM-CROPGRO-Cotton model was used to simulate the effects of future climate on cotton growth, yield, and water use in the ALD area. Projected climate forcings for the ALD were obtained from nine global climate models under two representative concentration pathways (RCP 4.5 and 8.5). Cotton growth, yield, and water use were simulated for mid-century (2036 to 2065) and late century (2066 to 2095) and compared to the baseline (1980 to 2005). Results indicated that seed cotton yield was reduced by at least 40% and 51% by mid-century and late century, respectively, compared to the baseline. Of all the weather variables, the seasonal average maximum (R2 = 0.72) and minimum (R2 = 0.80) air temperatures were most correlated with yield reductions. Under the future climate conditions of the ALD, cotton growth or biomass accumulation slightly increased compared to the baseline. Irrigation requirements in the ALD increased by at least 10% and 14% by mid-century and late century, respectively. Increases in irrigation requirements were due to an increase in crop water use; hence, greater demand for freshwater withdrawal for agricultural purposes is anticipated in the future. Therefore, cotton cultivars that are tolerant of long periods of high air temperature and improved management practices that promote efficient crop water use are critical for future sustainability of cotton production in the ALD.

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