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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Enhancing sustainability in cotton with reduced chemical inputs, cover crops, and conservation tillage

Authors
item Tillman, Patricia
item Schomberg, Harry
item Phatak, S - UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA
item Timper, Patricia
item Olson, Dawn

Submitted to: Annual Southern Conservation Tillage Conference for Sustainable Agriculture
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: June 24, 2002
Publication Date: October 1, 2002
Citation: Tillman, P.G., Schomberg, H., Phatak, S., Timper, P., Olson, D. 2002. Enhancing sustainability in cotton with reduced chemical inputs, cover crops, and conservation tillage. In:Proceedings of the Annual Southern Conservation Tillage Conference for Sustainable Agriculture, June 24-26, 2002, Auburn, Alabama. Special Report No. 1, Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station and Auburn University, Alabama. p.366-368.

Interpretive Summary: Conservation tillage and cover crops help control soil erosion and water runoff from agricultural fields contribute to greater sustainability of agroecosystems by optimizing soil productivity and beneficial insects. To this end, in the fall of 2000 an on-farm sustainable agricultural research project was established for cotton at two locations in Georgia. The objectives were to (1) develop cover crop systems for conservation tillage cotton that enhance habitat for aboveground beneficial insects, reduce risks of belowground plant parasitism by nematodes, improve nutrient cycling and water availability, and reduce costs of cotton production and (2) enhance producer understanding of sustainable principles and practices. Cover crop treatments included: (1) no cover crop, (2) cereal rye, (3) legume blend - balansa clover, crimson clover, and hairy vetch mixture, (4) combination of legume blend + rye, and (5) crimson clover. This paper is a preliminary report on some of the results on insects for the first year of the project. Beneficial insect numbers were higher in all cover crop treatments compared to the no cover treatment. The data suggests that higher predator density resulted in fewer insecticide applications. So, the cover crops generally benefited the growers by reducing insecticide inputs.

Technical Abstract: In the fall of 2000, an on-farm sustainable agricultural research project funded by SARE was established for cotton at two locations in Georgia. The objectives were to (1) develop cover crop systems for conservation tillage cotton that enhance habitat for aboveground beneficial insects, reduce risks of belowground plant parasitism by nematodes, improve nutrient cycling and water availability, and reduce costs of cotton production and (2) enhance producer understanding of sustainable principles and practices. Cover crop treatments included: (1) no cover crop, (2) cereal rye, (3) legume blend - balansa clover, crimson clover, and hairy vetch mixture, (4) combination of legume blend + rye, and (5) crimson clover. This paper is a preliminary report on some of the results on insects for the first year of the project. In the cover crops, mean number of pest insects from highest to lowest occurred in the following order: legume blend > crimson clover > rye > legume blend + rye. Mean number of predators followed a similar pattern suggesting that more predators occurred when insect pest density was higher. In cotton, mean number of pest insects from highest to lowest occurred in the following order: rye > crimson clover > legume blend + rye > no cover > legume blend. Except for the legume blend and legume blend + rye treatments, higher numbers of predators occurred where insect pest numbers were highest. Predator numbers were higher in all cover crop treatments compared to the no cover treatment. No differences in cotton yields were detected among treatments. Number of insecticide applications was significantly lower for the crimson clover and rye treatments than for the no cover, legume blend + rye, and legume blend treatments. The data suggests that higher predator density resulted in fewer insecticide applications. So, even though differences in yields statistically were not detected among the treatments, the cover crops generally benefited the growers by reducing insecticide inputs

Last Modified: 11/23/2014
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