Submitted to: National Cotton Council Beltwide Cotton Conference
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/30/2003
Publication Date: 1/8/2004
Citation: Siri-Prieto, G., Reeves, D.W., Bransby, D.I., Raper, R.L., Gamble, B.E. 2004. Integrating livestock in cotton production in the coastal plain: influence of winter pasture and tillage. National Cotton Council Beltwide Cotton Conference. 2004. p. 2507-2508. Interpretive Summary: Recent research in Alabama found that contract grazing of stocker cattle for 100 to 140 days provided profits of $70 to $225 per acre. Such a system is ideal for small farmers with limited capital, and offers potential for added income from double-copping cotton behind winter grazing. However, grazing often results in yield-limiting soil compaction. We began a study in fall 2000 to develop a conservation tillage system for integrating cotton production with winter-annual grazing of stocker cattle. Two forages, oat and ryegrass, were grazed during winter at a stocking rate of two head/acre and cotton was planted following eight different tillage systems. We found ryegrass and oat provided similar animal gain but cotton plant stands and yields were greater following oat than ryegrass. Strict no-tillage resulted in the lowest yields (18 % less than the mean lint yield), but no-tillage with under-the-row subsoiling with a narrow shanked subsoiler or a paratill proved the best tillage system. Grazing provided an average profit of about $75/acre, and the best tillage systems resulted in equivalent yields as full season cotton. This information can be used by extension, NRCS, and producers to promote the use of conservation production systems that sustain soil quality and increase income during winter without decreasing cotton yields.
Technical Abstract: Double-cropping cotton behind winter-annual grazing offers potential for added income for producers but may limit yields due to soil compaction. We evaluated winter forage and tillage system selection for cotton grown on a sandy loam soil in southeastern AL in 2001-2002. Treatments were arranged in a strip plot design with four replications. Winter forages (main plots) were oat (Avena sativa L.) and ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum L.). Grazing was continuous as contract grazing from January to April at a stocking rate of two head/acre. Tillage systems for cotton (subplots) included: moldboard with disk leveling, chisel and disk; and non-inversion deep tillage (none, in-row subsoiling or paratilling) with and without disking. Gross returns from grazing averaged between $141 to $160/acre/year; annual production costs averaged around $75. Grazing increased soil compaction 9% in the first 4 inches averaged over all treatments but conventional tillage or non-inversion deep tillage conservation tillage systems alleviated this problem. Cotton lint yields were affected by forage species and tillage system interactions, however, strict no-tillage resulted in the lowest lint yields (18% less than the mean) for both forages and subsoiling or paratilling was necessary to maximize yields. Cotton required more intensive tillage or more aggressive non-inversion deep disturbance (paratilling) to maximize lint yield following ryegrass compared to oat (1006 and 1120 lb acre-1 in ryegrass and 1131 and 1097 acre-1 in oat for no intensive tillage and intensive tillage, respectively). Integrating winter-annual grazing with cotton can be achieved using non-inversion deep tillage in conservation tillage systems.