Other Crops

Cotton Irrigation

Although the majority of cotton produced in the state of TN is grown under dryland or rainfed conditions, irrigated cotton acres have been on the rise in recent years. Cotton is an inherently drought-tolerant crop with water requirements which frequently match or are only slightly higher than received seasonal rainfall in humid environments. Still, uneven rainfall distribution through the season and the inability of the soil to capture and retain all received moisture typically results in several periods of water deficits for cotton in dryland acres.

The benefits of irrigating TN cotton include:

  1. Increased yields
  2. More consistent stand establishment
  3. Activation of applied herbicides
  4. Ability to move N into the root-zone
  5. Support of earlier canopy development
  6. Promotion of earliness

Subsequently, irrigation can impact a producer’s bottom line by:

  1. Stabilizing yields, particularly in dry seasons- thereby minimizing yield-loss risks
  2. Increasing the utilization of inputs in a timely manner
  3. Reducing weed pressure (and potentially herbicide applications) by promoting rapid canopy development
  4. Improving the sustainability of the operation
  5. Increasing land values

The University of Tennessee is currently evaluating several different irrigation schedulers and techniques for managing cotton irrigation. Information on some this work as well as irrigation system design and management can be found on Dr. Brian Leib’s Irrigation webpage.

Recent Presentations on Irrigation:

Water Management: Precision Irrigation Scheduling and Site Drought Characterization (Plant Management Network) by Dr. Tyson B. Raper, Extension Cotton and Small Grain Specialist, University of Tennessee


Irrigation Management for Cotton in the Southeast (Plant Management Network) by Dr. Wesley M. Porter, Extension Irrigation Specialist, University of Georgia/Alabama Cooperative Extension System


Overview of Sensor-based Irrigation Scheduling (Crop Management Seminar) by Dr. Brian Leib, Extension Irrigation Specialist, University of Tennessee.

Additional Resources:

Cotton Irrigation Management for Humid Regions (Cotton Inc)