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item Schomberg, Harry
item Tillman, Patricia - Glynn
item Timper, Patricia - Patty
item Weyers, Sharon
item Olson, Dawn
item Sainju, Upendra
item PHATAK, S
item Lamb, Marshall
item UTLEY, S

Submitted to: Government Publication/Report
Publication Type: Other
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/1/2005
Publication Date: 5/1/2005
Citation: Schomberg, H.H., Tillman, G., Timper, P., Lachnicht Weyers, S.L., Olson, D.M., Sainju, U.M., Phatak, S., Lamb, M.C., Whitehead, W., Utley, S. 2005. Enhancing sustainability in cotton production through reduced chemical inputs, cover crops, and conservation tillage. Final Project Report LSO1-121 to the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program.

Interpretive Summary: .

Technical Abstract: Cotton is grown on over 11.6 million acres in the Southeastern USA each year. But less than 25% of this cotton is grown using conservation tillage. Improvements in adoption have been hard to achieve for a number of reasons. This project’s aim was to improve a system for cotton production and to increase producer understanding of sustainable production practices including conservation tillage and cover crops. In on-farm studies we investigated effects of cover crops in conservation tillage cotton production systems on crop production. Insect dynamics, soil microarthropods and plant parasitic nematodes were used to evaluate impacts of cover crop management. Companion studies on station and in the greenhouse were used to identify cover crops with the most potential to produce biomass, enhance biological diversity and reduce threats of plant parasitic nematodes. Our results showed a positive impact of a blend of legumes (balansa clover, crimson clover, and hairy vetch) plus rye on above and below ground biological populations. Addition of cover crops increased soil biological diversity and microbial activity and in one year reduced the number of pesticide applications needed to control cotton insect pests. Plant parasitic nematode populations were supported by some of the cover crops in our system and trials with other cover crops indicated that alternative cover crops would be better choices where plant parasitic nematode populations exist. Through partnerships with the Georgia Conservation Tillage Alliance, Seven Rivers RC&D, and Sunbelt Farm Expo we provided information to several thousand farmers on use of cover crops in conservation tillage systems and impacts cover crops can have on nutrients, soil C, pest insects, nematodes and crop yields. Research results were presented at on-farm field days, conservation tillage meetings, the Sun Belt Agricultural Exposition, professional scientific society meetings and in scientific and nonscientific publications. Our outreach efforts were effective and successful in promoting sustainable farming practices in the Southeast.