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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Integrated Strategies for Improved Water Quality and Ecosystem Integrity within Agricultural Watersheds

Location: Water Quality and Ecology Research

Title: Conservation management improves runoff water quality: Implications for environmental sustainability in a glyphosate-resistant cotton production system)

Author
item Locke, Martin
item Krutz, L
item Steinriede, Robert - Wade
item Testa, Sam - Sam

Submitted to: Soil Science Society of America Journal
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/17/2014
Publication Date: 2/3/2015
Publication URL: http://handle.nal.usda.gov/10113/60937
Citation: Locke, M.A., Krutz, L.J., Steinriede Jr, R.W., Testa III, S. 2015. Conservation management improves runoff water quality: Implications for environmental sustainability in a glyphosate-resistant cotton production system. Soil Science Society of America Journal. 79(2):660-671. doi.org/10.2136/sssaj2014.09.0389.

Interpretive Summary: Although considerable research has addressed impacts of conservation practices on soil health and erosion, considerably more work is needed to assess nutrient runoff in conservation systems. Two rainfall simulations (spring after nitrogen fertilizer application and fall after tillage) were conducted on a cotton production system to compare effects of cover crop (with or without) and tillage (tilled or no-tillage) on nutrient and sediment runoff. No-tillage and a rye winter cover crop tended to reduce nutrient and sediment losses. Major factors contributing to this included recent tillage (in the fall) and coverage of the soil surface by plant residues, where increasing residues were measured for areas with no tillage or that included a cover crop. These results are of interest to regulatory and other agencies and farming stakeholders by providing additional information on the potential water quality and overall environmental quality using conservation practices.

Technical Abstract: Studies suggest that coincidental adoption of both genetically modified crops (GMC) and conservation management may be mutually complementary, but integrated conservation systems with GMC’s need to be assessed to balance production goals with environmental concerns. Genetically modified cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.) was managed on replicated experimental plots as either no-tillage (NT) or minimum tillage (MT), and with either no cover (NC) or a rye (Secale cereal L.) cover crop (CC) from 2001 to 2007 near Stoneville, MS. Rainfall simulations in 2007 were used to evaluate water quality in runoff as influenced by management at two critical times: (a) 24 h after fertilizer application in the spring; and (b) 24 h after tillage following crop harvest. With exception of MT-NC in the spring (which had the lowest surface residue coverage, 2%), runoff tended to be higher in the fall than in the spring. Suspended solids and turbidity in runoff were higher for tilled soil (MT) and areas with no cover crop, particularly in the fall. Tillage in the fall was the largest contributor to erosion loss. Similarly, total ortho-P and total Kjeldahl N losses were greatest with tillage in the fall, while the lowest dissolved organic C losses in runoff were in fall with NT. Overall, no-tillage and cover crop treatments reduced nutrient and solids losses. Major factors contributing to these results include recent tillage (in the fall) and coverage of the soil surface by plant residues (NT > MT; CC > NC). This study demonstrated the effectiveness of integrating cover crop and conservation tillage in reducing runoff and nutrient losses in a GMC production system.

Last Modified: 8/24/2016
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