The Rolling Plains land resource area encompasses more than 24 million acres in north-central Texas. Almost 70% of the region is native rangeland, but income is equally split between crops and livestock. Rainfall varies from about 30 inches in the east to 19 inches in the west. Crops are largely dependent on seasonal precipitation, which occurs mainly in a spring-fall bimodal pattern. Irrigation is limited to less than 10% of the cultivated acreage. Wheat and cotton are the primary cultivated crops, while native rangeland and wheat pasture are utilized in cow-calf and stocker production. In this semi-arid environment, droughts are frequent, rainfall events can be intense, and high winds are prevalent. This region of Texas is noted for low dryland crop yields, low-cost production inputs, and low returns. Excessive tillage is practiced by many producers and over time degrades the natural resource base. Production systems that capture and utilize seasonal rainfall, while providing protection for seedling crops and soil resources, need to be developed.
Many exciting projects are currently underway at the Vernon, Chillicothe, and Munday research sites dealing with cotton, wheat, grain sorghum, guar, peanuts, soybeans, and pearl millet. These projects range from finding better cropping systems to grow cotton and grain sorghum to variety trials with soybeans and millet. All of these projects ultimate goal is to improve crop production profitability through better management decisions while improving the environment around us.
Dr. Santanu Thapa
Post-doctoral Research Associate