Location: Crop Production Systems Research Unit
Title: The Challenges of Implementing Conservation Tillage and Cover Crops in Clay Soil Author
Submitted to: Soil and Water Conservation Society
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: January 21, 2010
Publication Date: July 18, 2010
Citation: Sassenrath, G.F. 2010. The Challenges of Implementing Conservation Tillage and Cover Crops in Clay Soil [abstract]. Soil and Water Conservation Society. Paper Number 24,pp. 47. Technical Abstract: Conservation practices, such as reduced tillage and cover crops, can improve soil quality and increase soil moisture for crop production. Benefits to production, soil quality, and water conservation have been observed especially in areas with rapidly draining soils. While historically enjoying high rainfall levels, increasing use of irrigation over the past 10 years has resulted in declines in aquifer levels in the Mississippi Delta. We are interested in management practices that conserve soil moisture for crop growth during dry periods, improve soil quality, and potentially reduce the need for irrigation on the alluvial soils of the Mississippi Delta. We examined the impacts of tillage (subsoiling) and cover crop (winter wheat or rye) on soil moisture, electrical conductivity, and soil nutrients. Final yield and cotton fiber quality were determined for each production system and used to determine economic return. Irrigation improved yield in only one of the three years. The conservation production system showed the greatest response to water during this dry year. Cover crops had only a slight impact on SCI. While the conservation system showed a positive SCI, the improvement would only result in a $2.32 per acre per year payment. Conservation practices had inconsistent impacts on improving yield. However, excessive soil moisture during a wet spring interfered with good seed bed preparation and planting in plots with cover crops, resulting in poor plant stand and lower yield. Incentive payments to farmers to encourage use of conservation practices need to be examined for applicability to Delta soils and environment.