Xinjiang has the leading prestige among cotton producing regions in China and around the world as well, due to its well-suited climate for cotton along with unique light and heat conditions. However, through benefitting from advantageous climate, the total production of this region can be further enhanced by allocating more cultivable area to this crop but, the limitation of arable land is concerned. While, as a compensation to declining arable lands, the cultivated area in the region is being expanded towards deserts by intensive use of anti-desertification techniques. Nevertheless, the extreme water scarcity, high evaporative potential, and negligible precipitation predominantly remained the serious concerns in desert ecosystems. If water dearth is effectively managed with in the optimal limits of physiological and productivity performances of crop then these terrains can also add their significant contribution in the regional and country’s total cotton production due to favorable climate.
In that context, Dr. Muhammad Shareef from Pakistan, along with Dr. Zeng Fanjiang and Dr. Gui Dongwei explored the drought adaptive and productivity potential of cotton in the desert environment with the use of deficit drip irrigation technique through understanding the quantitative interactions between key physiological and biochemical attributes in the course of drought stress adaptation, the changes in assimilates distribution pattern under stress and their impact on the quality of cottonseed and fiber, and quantifying the optimal crop water demand.
Studies revealed that, being a drought tolerant plant, cotton adapted to each level (mild, moderate, and acute) of soil water deficit stress through ameliorating its stomatal and non-stomatal attributes, suggesting that the decline in photosynthetic gas exchange activities would indeed be a modulating effect of drought induced osmoprotectants enrichment in leaf tissues.
The consumptive water demand of cotton accounted for 1079 mm to reach the highest seed cotton yield on southern border of the Taklamakan desert, while, irrigating cotton up to 80% field capacity would provide the optimum yield and net income with 20% water saving.
In addition, studies also suggest that, no doubt deficit irrigation would assure sustainability of cotton in a desert ecosystem but, the malnourishment of fruiting fractions (boll) due to disrupted assimilates partitioning under soil water deficit would be disadvantageous for cottonseed and fiber quality parameters.
These research findings provide important insights and theoretical basis for successful and sustainable cultivation of cotton in hyperarid environment of a desert ecotone using the deficit drip irrigation techniques. These results are published inAgricultural Water Management, Acta Physiologiae Plantarum, andInternational Journal of Agriculture and Biology.