DEVELOPING SUSTAINABLE CROP AND ANIMAL PRODUCTION SYSTEMS SUITABLE FOR THE SOUTHEAST
Location: Athens, Georgia
Title: Grazing winter cover crops in a cotton-cover crop conservation tillage system
Submitted to: American Society of Agronomy Meetings
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: June 25, 2008
Publication Date: October 5, 2008
Citation: Schomberg, H.H., Reeves, D.W., Fisher, D.S., Raper, R.L., Endale, D.M., Jenkins, M. 2008. Grazing winter cover crops in a cotton-cover crop conservation tillage system [abstract]. ASA-CSSA-SSSA International Annual Meetings, October 5-9, Houston, Texas. CD-ROM.
Grazing of winter annual cover crops with cattle offers a way to offset costs and increase farm revenue in conservation tillage systems. However, cattle may create problems due to soil treading and reduction in surface residues needed to reduce soil erosion. Optimizing production efficiencies may require application of precision agricultural methods to manage spatially variable effects from cattle grazing, especially in topography typical of the Southern Piedmont region. We are evaluating grazing effects on conservation tillage cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.) grown on Cecil soil (fine, kaolinitic, thermic, Typic Kanhapludult) at the USDA-ARS Research Center, Watkinsville, GA using two replications of paired (grazed vs. non-grazed) long-term conservation systems watersheds instrumented to measure runoff and sediment loss. In winter of 2006 and 2007, cereal rye (Secale cereale L.) provided approximately 4480 kg ha-1 of forage, enough to support 3.5 Angus heifers (Bos Taurus) ha-1 between February 1st and April 15th. Seed cotton yields ranged from 2396 kg ha-1 to 3303 kg ha-1 in 2006, a year with good rain, but only 15 to 20% of this amount in 2007, a year of severe drought. No differences in yield were detected between grazed and ungrazed fields for either year. Returns from grazing was similar for both years while cotton returns were more variable. These results indicate grazing cover crops may be an important economic consideration for cotton producers in the Southern Piedmont because of the potential to increase revenues from grazing without reducing cotton yields.