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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: Tillage Requirements Of Sweet Corn, Field Pea, and Watermelon Following Stocker Cattle Grazing

Authors
item BALKCOM, KIPLING
item Reeves, Donald
item Kemble, Joseph - AUBURN UNIVERSITY
item Dawkins, Robert - AUBURN UNIVERSITY
item DONOGHUE, ANN

Submitted to: Journal of Sustainable Agriculture
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: November 3, 2009
Publication Date: January 25, 2010
Citation: Balkcom, K.S., Reeves, D.W., Kemble, J.M., Dawkins, R.A., Raper, R.L. 2010. Tillage Requirements Of Sweet Corn, Field Pea, and Watermelon Following Stocker Cattle Grazing. Journal of Sustainable Agriculture. 34(2):169-182.

Interpretive Summary: Winter annual grazing combined with vegetable production can potentially improve the sustainability of farming operations, particularly in the Southeast. However, winter grazing creates excessive soil compaction, which can limit yields of summer crops. Scientists with USDA-ARS located at the National Soil Dynamics Laboratory in Auburn, AL and the J. Phil Campbell Sr. – Natural Resource Conservation Center in Watkinsville, GA, in cooperation with scientist from Auburn Univ. initiated a study to determine the optimal tillage system following grazing for sweet corn, Southern field pea, and watermelon production in north-central Alabama from 2001 to 2003. All plots were planted to ryegrass and grazed, beginning each fall. In the spring, three surface tillage treatments (chisel/disk/level, disk/level, no surface tillage) and three deep tillage treatments (no deep tillage, in-row subsoiling, paratill) were examined across the test area. Sweet corn yields responded to a combination of surface and deep tillage in 2002 and 2003. Deep tillage produced similar yields to surface tillage during 2001; the average response to surface tillage was 105% greater than no-surface tillage, compared to only a 14% increase with deep tillage over no-deep tillage in 2001. Southern field pea grown after winter annual grazing yielded 22% greater two of three years following surface tillage with disking; inclusion of chisel plowing with the disking showed no benefit. Watermelon yields following winter annual grazing were 39% and 58% greater in 2001 and 2002 with deep tillage alone, specifically in-row subsoiling, without any surface tillage. The ideal tillage system following winter-annual grazing varies with the vegetable crop for growers of the southeast that choose to complement their operations with stocker cattle.

Technical Abstract: Winter annual grazing combined with vegetable production can potentially improve the sustainability of farming operations, particularly in the Southeast. However, winter grazing creates excessive soil compaction, which can adversely affect yields of subsequent summer crops. We initiated a study to determine the optimal tillage system following grazing for sweet corn [Zea mays, (L.)], Southern field pea [Vigna unguiculata (L.)], and watermelon [Citrullus lanatus (L.)] production on a Wynnville fine sandy loam, in north-central Alabama from 2001 to 2003. Each fall, all plots were planted to ryegrass [Lolium multiflorum (L.)] and stocked with 6.7 cattle ha-1. In the spring, three surface tillage treatments (chisel/disk/level, disk/level, no surface tillage) and three deep tillage treatments (no deep tillage, in-row subsoiling, paratill) were arranged in a factorial randomized complete block design with four replications. Sweet corn yields responded to a combination of surface and deep tillage in 2002 and 2003. Deep tillage produced similar yields to surface tillage during 2001; the average response to surface tillage was 105% greater than no-surface tillage, compared to only a 14% increase with deep tillage over no-deep tillage in 2001. Southern field pea grown after winter annual grazing yielded 22% greater two of three years following surface tillage with disking; inclusion of chisel plowing with the disking showed no benefit. Watermelon yields following winter annual grazing were 39% and 58% greater in 2001 and 2002 with deep tillage alone, specifically in-row subsoiling, without any surface tillage. The tillage system for vegetable growers who choose to complement their operations with winter-annual grazing varies with the vegetable grown. In general, sweet corn responded best to a combination of surface and deep tillage, Southern field pea required only disking, and watermelon responded best to in-row deep tillage with no additional surface tillage.

Last Modified: 9/10/2014
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