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Integrating Cotton and Beef Production in the Texas Southern High Plains: III. An Economic Evaluation

Phillip Johnson, Cody John Zilverberg, Vivien G. Allen, Justin Weinheimer, Philip Brown, Rick Kellison, Eduardo Segarra
Agronomy journal 2013 v.105 no.4 pp. 929-937
Gossypium hirsutum, agricultural economics, agronomy, aquifers, beef production, cotton, cultivars, economic evaluation, economic sustainability, energy efficiency, irrigation, profitability, profits and margins, risk, soil, soil quality, wildlife, Texas
Economic viability of an agricultural economy is dependent on the availability of soil and water resources and how these resources are allocated within production systems. The semiarid Texas High Plains has highly productive soil and water resources from the southern Ogallala aquifer. Sustainability of its agricultural economy is threatened by depletion of the Ogallala aquifer, which underlies much of the region. The predominant production system within the region is monoculture cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.). Long-term (1999–2008), replicated research compared water use, productivity, and energy efficiency of a cotton monoculture system and an integrated cotton–forage–beef cattle (Bos taurus) system. Evaluation of the two production systems using mean input and output prices indicated that profitability during the 10-yr period was not significantly different. During the last 6 yr, however, the cotton monoculture was more profitable due to the introduction of higher yielding cotton cultivars. The integrated system used 24% less applied irrigation, with irrigation efficiency similar to the cotton monoculture as measured by gross margin per hectare. Results indicate that where water availability is adequate, the cotton monoculture system has higher profitability than the integrated system, primarily due to the introduction of higher yielding cotton cultivars. The integrated system could be a viable alternative in areas of the region where irrigation is limited due to aquifer depletion and/or pumping regulation. The integrated system had less economic risk associated with the variation in profitability and added ecological diversity that benefited soil health and wildlife populations.