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Water Balance of Two Major Soil Types of the Texas High Plains: Implications for Dryland Crop Production

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Document pages: 24 pages

Abstract: Crop production in the Texas High Plains is shifting from irrigated to dryland due to the increase of the depth to the water table from the Ogallala aquifer in regions where the saturated thickness of 9 m, the minimum to sustain irrigation, has been reached. Our objective was to use the mechanistic model ENWATBAL to evaluate the daily and annual water balance for three scenarios of rainfall in this region, a dry (189 mm), an average (449 mm) and a wet (669 mm) year. These three scenarios were applied to two major soil series of this region, Pullman and Amarillo. In all simulations, we used hourly input weather data for a location near Lubbock, Texas and used measured soil hydraulic properties to simulate the water balance for each soil series and the three rainfall scenarios. Results showed that in years with average and wet rain, storage of rainfall occurred in the Pullman but not in in the Amarillo soil series. However, storage of water could be enhanced by combining furrow dikes with minimum tillage along with crop covers that provide a surface residue. The implications of our results for dryland crop production in the semiarid climate of the THP suggest that for years with average and wetter rainfall soils in the Pullman series could store water that would be available for crop use. However, this was not the case for the Amarillo soil series and these soils represent a higher risk for dryland crop production.

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