Drying And Mulching The Root Zone Might Improve Cotton Productivity Under Arid Climates

Water scarcity constrains global cotton production. However, partial root-zone drying (PRD) and mulching can be used as good techniques to save water and enhance crop production, especially in arid regions.

This study aimed to evaluate the effects of mulching for water conservation in an arid environment under PRD and to further assess the osmotic adjustment and enzymatic activities for sustainable cotton production.

The study was carried out for 2 years in field conditions using mulches (NM = no mulch, BPM = black plastic mulch at 32 kg ha-1, WSM = wheat straw mulch at 3 tons ha-1, CSM = cotton sticks mulch at 10 tons ha-1), and two irrigation levels (FI = full irrigation and PRD (50% less water than FI).

High seed cotton yield (SCY) was achieved in FI+WSM (4457 and 4248 kg ha-1 in 2017 and 2018, respectively) and even in PRD+WSM followed by BPM>CSM>NM under FI and PRD for both years.

The higher SCY and traits observed in FI+WSM and PRD+WSM compared with the others were attributed to the improved water use efficiency and gaseous exchange traits, increased hormone production (ABA), osmolyte accumulation, and enhanced antioxidants to scavenge the excess reactive oxygen.

Furthermore, better cotton quality traits were also observed under WSM either with FI or PRD irrigation regimes. Mulches applications found effective to control the weeds in the order as BPM>WSM>CSM.

In general, PRD can be used as an effective stratagem to save moisture along with WSM, which ultimately can improve cotton yield in the water-scarce regions under arid climatic regions. It may prove as a good adaptation strategy under current and future water shortage scenarios of climate change.

This study explored PRD as an efficient irrigation technique along with WSM application under limited water supply, improving cotton yield and fiber quality under an arid climatic region.

These improvements were accredited to many inter-connected physio-biochemical mechanisms such as enhanced water relations, photosynthesis, osmolyte accumulation, ABA production, and antioxidants activity to scavenge excess ROS production.

PRD+WSM may prove as a good adaptation to grow better cotton under limited water as currently, the region is facing a water shortage.

As PRD+WSM improves WUE and several biochemical processes which ultimately improved the yield and quality of the cotton crop, so it can be recommended for the cotton growers to adopt it as a potential adaptation strategy under current climatic scenarios in the region to achieve high cotton production and save water.

Future studies may focus to elucidate the soil properties and microbial communities’ changes under WSM and especially evaluate the potential of these techniques under various climatic regions to evaluate the potential under future climate change seniors using modeling approaches.

Source: Iqbal, R., Habib-ur-Rahman, M., Raza, M.A.S. et al. Assessing the potential of partial root zone drying and mulching for improving the productivity of cotton under arid climate. Environ Sci Pollut Res (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-021-15259-6

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