A SPATIOTEMPORAL ECONOMIC ANALYSIS OF CROP PRODUCTION IN THE TEXAS HIGH PLAINS
The Texas High Plains is one of the most prolific crop-producing areas in the United States. Agriculture plays a vital role in the economy of this region. The agricultural industry in this area faces various challenges: environmental, economic, etc. Due to extreme weather conditions and climate change, crop production in the Texas High plains is facing a great threat. Crop production needs irrigation water. The primary source of irrigation water in this region is the Ogallala Aquifer. The saturated thickness of this aquifer is being depleted day by day, which is a big concern for the irrigation of crop production (Guerrero et al., 2019).
A survey of the literature shows that few studies have investigated the cropping pattern for a specific crop based on production amount, but there is no study that broadly investigated the cropping pattern based on harvested acres for this region. So, it is important for policy purposes to investigate the spatiotemporal change of cropping patterns in this region. The main objective of this research is to visualize the historical change of cropping patterns in the Texas High Plains from the standpoint of geographical concentration and spatial autocorrelation.
Historical county-level agricultural census data were collected from the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistical Services (NASS) from 1978 to 2017. Exploratory data analysis (EDA) techniques were employed
to examine the geographical concentration and the spatial dependence of crop production among nearby locations. Results of temporal changes indicate that harvested acres and the number of farms trend down through the study period. Maps were generated for each variable of interest which shows how much cropland acres have changed over time. The Gini coefficient and the quantiles of size distributions were computed for all variables of interest to analyze the change in geographical distribution. Total harvested cropland acres were nearly uniformly distributed across the 39 counties whereas irrigated harvested cropland acres were concentrated in a smaller number of counties, which is an indication of the change in geographical concentration in the Texas High Plains. Both total and irrigated harvested corn, cotton, sorghum grain, and wheat acreages were concentrated in a smaller number of counties over time while wheat production was mostly concentrated in the northern part of the region. The number of acres harvested for a specific crop relative to the number of total cropland acres show that most counties had more than 50 percent of its harvested cropland as cotton indicating that cotton is the prominent crop in the Texas High Plains. The percentage of acres of irrigated harvested cropland relative to total harvested cropland acreage has decreased over time. The Moran’s I test statistics for both irrigated and non-irrigated cropland areas suggest that there was spatial dependence among the neighboring counties in the production of crops in this region. In summary, there was a spatiotemporal change in cropping patterns in the Texas High Plains over the study period.