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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Breaking Records - Sensible Management Helps Alabama's Long-Term Experiments Net Record Yields

Authors
item Mitchell, Charles - AUBURN UNIVERSITY
item Reeves, Donald
item Delaney, Dennis - AUBURN UNIVERSITY

Submitted to: Experiment Station Bulletins
Publication Type: Other
Publication Acceptance Date: December 18, 2002
Publication Date: December 18, 2002
Citation: Mitchell, C., Reeves, D.W., Delaney, D. 2002. Breaking records - sensible management helps alabama's long-term experiments net record yields. Highlights On Line, Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station. Available: http://www.ag.auburn.edu/resinfo.highlightsonline/fall01/fall-mitchell.html.

Interpretive Summary: Testing sustainability of farming practices requires long-term field experiments. Two of the oldest in the USA (and the world) are Alabama's Old Rotation Experiment (circa 1896) and the Cullars Rotation Experiment (circa 1911) at Auburn University. Since 1997, both tests have set record or near record crop yields. The Auburn University/USDA-ARS research team involved in the experiments attribute high yields to a variety of changes in management, including deep tillage, genetically modified crops, boll weevil eradication, conservation tillage, and cover crops. Non-inversion deep tillage is now an annual operation because of dramatic yield increases attributed to deeper rooting and drainage. Since 1996, Bollgard cotton has been planted with higher yield potential and better worm control. Roundup Ready varieties of cotton and soybean and Liberty-Link corn has improved weed control, which has eliminated the need for cultivation and reduced the need for most insecticides. Since 1997, all crops are planted using conservation (strip tillage) or no tillage. Crop residues are left as surface mulch, increasing surface soil organic matter and improving soil quality. Less traffic from tillage equipment also means less soil compaction on the plots. Increased water infiltration, less runoff, and less soil erosion is a result of improved soil quality in some treatments. A final factor in increased yields relates to reseeding of the clover cover crop facilitated by conservation tillage. While the Old Rotation and the Cullars Rotation Experiments on the Auburn University campus may be among the oldest, continuous field crop experiments in the world, they continue to demonstrate new and proven techniques and practices that can help modern farmers increase yields, increase profits, and protect the environment.

Technical Abstract: Alabama's Old Rotation Experiment (circa 1896) and the Cullars Rotation Experiment (circa 1911) at Auburn University have set record or near record crop yields for these experiments over the last few years. Researchers contributing to the Old Rotation and Cullars Rotation experiments attribute high yields to a variety of issues including deep tillage, genetically modified crops, boll weevil eradication, conservation tillage, soil fertility, and cover crops. Non-inversion deep tillage is now an annual operation because of dramatic yield increases attributed to deeper rooting and drainage. Since 1996, Bollgard cotton has been planted with higher yield potential and better worm control. Roundup Ready varieties of cotton and soybean and Liberty-Link corn has improved weed control, which has eliminated the need for cultivation and reduced the need for most insecticides. Since 1997, all crops are planted using conservation (strip tillage) or no tillage. Crop residues are left as surface mulch, increasing surface soil organic matter and improving soil quality. Less traffic from tillage equipment also means less soil compaction on the plots. Increased water infiltration, less runoff, and less soil erosion is a result of improved soil quality in some treatments. A final factor in these increased yields relates to reseeding of the clover cover crop facilitated by conservation tillage. While the Old Rotation and the Cullars Rotation Experiments on the Auburn University campus may be among the oldest, continuous field crop experiments in the world, they continue to demonstrate new and proven techniques and practices that can help modern farmers increase yields, increase profits, and protect the environment.

Last Modified: 8/22/2014
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