Analysis of Drought Tolerant Corn Production in the Southern High Plains
Corn (Zea mays L.) is an important crop in the Texas High Plains (THP). Chapter 1 of this study discusses why corn is such an important commodity for the THP as well as the challenges that farmers face when trying to produce a successful and profitable crop. These challenges include many stressors, both biotic and abiotic. Chapter 2 serves as a review of some of the stressors that corn producers face in the area, and reports production challenges that were observed in a two-year experiment, 2013-2014, conducted at the USDA-ARS Conservation and Production Research Laboratory in Bushland, TX. Corn earworms (Helicoverpa zea), spider mites (Tetranychus urticea), grasshoppers (Caelifera) and rust (Puccinia sorghi) were among the biotic stressors noted in the experiment. Abiotic stresses included heat stress, water stress, drought stress and severe weather events. A comparison of two corn hybrids is presented in Chapter 3. A drought tolerant and a conventional hybrid were planted in 2013 and 2014 at three different irrigation treatment levels (100%, 75% and 50%). The purpose of this study was to investigate the performance of a drought tolerant hybrid by comparing yields, crop water use (ETc), water use efficiency (WUE), and harvest index (HI), with a common hybrid. Grain yields for the drought tolerant hybrid were similar to the conventional hybrid for all irrigation treatment levels, while ETc was always numerically less. However, more research needs to be conducted on these drought tolerant hybrids in more extreme drought conditions.