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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: CONSERVATION SYSTEMS RESEARCH FOR IMPROVING ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY AND PRODUCER PROFITABILITY

Location: National Soil Dynamics Laboratory

Title: Effects of Conservation Systems on Soil Moisture and Productivity in Cotton

Authors
item Ward, Jason
item Arriaga, Francisco
item Balkcom, Kipling
item Kornecki, Ted

Submitted to: Proceedings of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers International (ASABE)
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: July 7, 2006
Publication Date: July 9, 2006
Citation: Ward, J.K., Arriaga, F.J., Balkcom, K.S., Kornecki, T.S. 2006. Effects of Conservation Systems on Soil Moisture and Productivity in Cotton. In:Proceedings of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers International (ASABE) Annual Meeting, July 9-12, 2006, Portland Oregon. Paper No. 061038.

Interpretive Summary: Soils in southeastern US typically have low organic matter contents and hardened soil layers that limit root growth. Conservation agricultural practices can improve the profitability of Southeastern farms. These cropping and soil management systems can help increase soil quality and the productive potential of these soils while decreasing inputs and increasing net returns. A study was conducted to examine the effects of non-inversion tillage operations and winter cover crops on soil moisture and crop productivity. Three conservation tillage systems (no-till, strip-till, and paratill) were evaluated in a cotton production system, with tillage applied in the fall and spring. Rye as a winter cover crop was compared to bare soil. Results from the first two years of this study indicate that winter cover crops have negatively impacted crop yields, possibly because of nitrogen availability in the soil. Winter cover crops have been reported to have increased cotton yields in similar regions. Adequate fertilization needs to be identified. Spring tillage significantly increased cash crop yields. Fall tillage was not significantly different from no-till due to soil reconsolidation. As work continues on this study the results should indicate which tillage and cover crop systems increase soil quality, productivity, and profitability in these soils with low organic matter content.

Technical Abstract: Southeastern soils are characterized by low organic matter levels and consolidated soil layers that limit root growth. The low productive potential of many of these soils, coupled with recent poor crop prices and short-term droughts has placed many farmers in an untenable position. Soil-specific conservation systems can improve the profitability of Southeastern farms, mainly by increasing soil water storage and availability to crops during periods of short-term drought common in the region. Cropping and soil management systems are needed that increase soil quality and productive potential of these soils while decreasing inputs and increasing net returns. The objectives of this study were to examine the effects of non-inversion tillage operations and winter cover crops on soil moisture and crop productivity. Three conservation tillage systems (no-till, strip-till, and paratill) were evaluated in a cotton production system. The tillage was applied in the fall or the spring. Two winter cover crop systems, rye and no cover, were also compared. The cover crop was killed chemically before planting of cash crop and managed with a roller-crimper. Yield, soil moisture, leaf temperature, cover crop biomass, and cover crop chemical analysis data were collected. Results from the first two years of this study indicate that winter cover crops have negatively impacted crop yields, potentially due to Nitrogen availability in the soil. Spring tillage significantly increased cash crop yields. Fall tillage was not significantly different from no-till due to soil reconsolidation. As work continues on this study the results should indicate which tillage and cover crop systems increase soil quality, productivity, and profitability in these degraded soils.

Last Modified: 8/1/2014
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