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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Auburn, Alabama » Soil Dynamics Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #308033

Research Project: Sustainable Production, Profit, and Environmental Stewardship through Conservation Systems

Location: Soil Dynamics Research

Title: Soil health benefits using cover crops across the Southeast

Author
item Balkcom, Kipling
item Duzy, Leah
item Kornecki, Ted
item Price, Andrew

Submitted to: Abstract of Agronomy Meetings
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/26/2014
Publication Date: 11/2/2014
Citation: Balkcom, K.S., Duzy, L.M., Kornecki, T.S., Price, A.J. 2014. Soil health benefits using cover crops across the Southeast [abstract]. American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of Agronomy, Soil Science Society of America Meetings. CDROM.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Soils in the southeastern U.S. are very low in organic matter, which can be attributed to high temperatures, humidity, and rainfall that oxidizes organic residues very quickly. Conventional tillage exacerbates this condition and generally contributes to poor soil health. As a result, soils in the region are susceptible to erosion, compaction, and drought, which can reduce soil productivity and profits for producers. Conservation tillage combined with high residue cover crops make up the two components of a conservation system that are designed to improve soil health across the Southeast. These systems minimize surface disturbance, maximize residue production to minimize residue decomposition and promote soil health benefits across degraded soils of the Southeast, despite climatic conditions. Soil health benefits include increasing organic matter contents that enhance many soil physical and chemical characteristics of previously degraded soils. Other benefits include weed suppression and moisture conservation to reduce short-term drought stress. In order to maximize soil health benefits, particularly from cover crops, biomass production should also be maximized. Growers should focus cover crop management on planting dates, fertilization, termination dates, and equipment modifications to operate in residue to enhance biomass production. This presentation will describe how integrating components of conservation systems with management aspects designed to maximize biomass production can enhance profits and reduce risk for growers across the Southeast.