​​Rainfed Cotton Production on the Texas High Plains: Opportunities for Sustainable Production​

February 2020 | 29 min., 30 sec.
by Paxton Payton and James Mahan


​Rainfed cotton production is expanding in many regions around the world. Expansion is due to both physical (declining aquifers and surface water resources) and socio-political factors (reallocation of water to urban areas). The Texas High Plains is the largest contiguous cotton producing region in the world. The Ogallala aquifer provides irrigation water for this region, but has steadily declined over the past 3 decades. This decline has resulted in the region transitioning from largely irrigated to rainfed cotton production. We present here our current approaches to improving rainfed production, i.e. stabilizing yield across hyper-variable seasons, through management and agronomy. A fundamental question of this research is “can we apply new technologies, like remote sensing and crop modeling, to maximize yield and quality in an unstable and seemingly unpredictable environment?”​

About the Presenter

Paxton Payton ​Paxton Payton is a Plant Physiologist at the Cropping Systems Research Laboratory in Lubbock, Texas. He has degrees in Biology from The University of Texas at Austin and Texas Tech University. His research is focused on molecular and physiological responses to water and temperature stress.



James MahanJames Mahan has been a plant physiologist with the USDA-ARS in Lubbock TX for 30+ years. He has degrees from Southwestern Oklahoma State University and Texas A&M University. His research is focused on the response of plants to water and temperature stresses. Current research interests include irrigation management, rainfed cotton production and the obligatory Big Data.​

Contact Information:
Email: paxton.payton@ars.usda.gov, james.mahan@usda.gov


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