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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Florence, South Carolina » Coastal Plain Soil, Water and Plant Conservation Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #250033

Title: Cotton responses to tillage and rotation during the turn of the century drought

item Bauer, Philip
item FORTNUM, B - Clemson University
item FREDERICK, J - Clemson University

Submitted to: Agronomy Journal
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/12/2010
Publication Date: 5/10/2010
Citation: Bauer, P.J., Fortnum, B.F., Frederick, J.R. 2010. Cotton responses to tillage and rotation during the turn of the century drought. Agronomy Journal. 102(4):1145-1148.

Interpretive Summary: Climate prediction models indicate that as greenhouse gasses continue to accumulate in the atmosphere the southeast US will experience more periods of drought. We evaluated different crop rotations and tillage systems for cotton productivity from 1997 through 2002; the last five years of the study occurred during the 1998-2002 turn-of-the-century drought. We found that rotation with corn or use of a rye winter cover crop did not influence cotton yield. We also found that in the year before the drought, tillage had no effect on yield. During the drought years, however, conservation tillage resulted in a 25% yield increase compared to conventional tillage. Researchers and extension personnel will use this research as they develop cotton production practices that help ensure sustainable production in a changing climate.

Technical Abstract: Both soil water and cotton (Gossypium hirustum L.) pests are affected by soil management practices. The objective was to determine the effect of rotation, tillage, and aldicarb on cotton yield and fiber properties. This six-year field study was conducted from 1997 through 2002 and coincided with the 1998-2002 turn-of-the-century U.S. drought. Treatments in the study were rotation [cotton rotated with corn (Zea mays L.), continuous cotton with a rye (Secale cereale L.) cover crop, and continuous cotton with no cover crop], tillage system (conventional tillage and conservation tillage), and aldicarb level (0 and 1.18 kg a.i./ha). The predominant soil types were [Bonneau loamy sand (loamy, siliceous, thermic Arenic Paleudult) and Norfolk loamy sand (fine-loamy, siliceous, thermic Typic Kandiudult)]. Rotation did not affect yield in any year. Tillage did not affect yield in 1997 which was the year before the drought; however, conservation tillage resulted in an average 25% yield increase in cotton lint yield over conventional tillage during the five years of the drought. Fiber quality was similar among treatment combinations. Tillage and aldicarb affected both thrips (Frankliniella sp.) and root-knot nematodes (Meloidigyne arenaria), but lack of interaction among these factors suggested that management of these pests was not the predominant cause for the yield increase with conservation tillage. Conservation tillage for cotton production could be an important way to maintain productivity if climate change in the region occurs as predicted.