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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Auburn, Alabama » Soil Dynamics Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #316521

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

Location: Soil Dynamics Research

Title: Effects of cover crop management and planting operations on cotton establishment and yield in a no-till system

Author
item Kornecki, Ted

Submitted to: Meeting Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/26/2015
Publication Date: 5/26/2015
Citation: Kornecki, T.S. 2015. Effects of cover crop management and planting operations on cotton establishment and yield in a no-till system. In: Proceedings of the 36th CIOSTA CIGR V Conference: Environmentally Friendly Agriculture and Forestry for Future Generations, May 26-28, 2015, Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation.

Interpretive Summary: One method that saves resources while positively impacting the environment is combining agricultural field operations. In no-till systems cover crops are utilized to reduce soil erosion and runoff, increase soil moisture, increase infiltration, reduce weed pressure, and increase soil organic carbon for better crop growth. Termination of cover crops (cereal rye) and planting a cash crop (cotton) could be done simultaneously utilizing a single power source to save resources and reduce greenhouse gas emission to the environment. Results from a field test conducted in Alabama, USA, showed that planting cotton into the standing rye is not beneficial in generating the optimum cotton yield due to rye shading effect and competition for resources (water and nutrients) between still living rye and planted seed cotton. When planting cotton 20 days after rye reaches an early milk growth stage versus 10 days after that selected growth stage, combined operations generated similar cotton population and yield compared with separate operations. Combined operations saves diesel fuel (42%), reduces engine’s CO2 emission to the environment, and decreases operation time by half for managing cover crop and cotton planting. For these reasons, combining field operations might be a viable option for no-till systems with cover crops.

Technical Abstract: One method to save resources while positively impacting the environment is combining agricultural field operations. In no-till systems, for example, termination of cover crops and planting of the cash crop can be performed simultaneously utilizing a tractor as a single power source. A no-till field experiment merging cover crop management with cotton planting was conducted in 2012 and 2013 in central Alabama to study the effects of combined operations on saving operation time and fuel (also lowering emissions), and its effects on cotton population and yield in a no-till system. The field test included two different cotton planting dates and combined cotton planting operations with cover crop termination using rollers/crimpers [with or without herbicide (glyphosate) application] to promote termination. The cereal rye cover crop had two different dates for terminating and planting cotton which were 10 days, and 20 days after rye reached an early milk growth stage maturity. Six rolling/planting treatments were applied which represented separate operations such as rolling using a roller/crimper and planting using a no-till planter. These operations were combined into one operation with or without the glyphosate application at an operating speed of 4.8 km h-1. In each growing season, there were significant differences in rye production generating plant heights of 162 cm and 175 cm, and biomass values (dry basis) of 6851 kg ha-1 and 8999 kg ha-1 for the 2012 and 2013 growing seasons, respectively. These differences were attributed to weather conditions in each growing season. The treatments and rye biomass influenced cotton population in each year. In 2012, cotton population was higher (78439 plants ha-1) compared to 2013 (63469 plants ha-1), and this difference might be associated with more rye residue on the soil surface in 2013 which may have restricted cotton emergence. Average cotton population was higher for the 20 days after the early milk rye maturity (81018 plants ha-1) compared to the 10 days after the early milk rye maturity (60881 plants ha-1). In both years, cotton population was influenced by treatments 10 days after the selected rye maturity, but not after 20 days. In 2012 and 2013, assigned treatments affected seed cotton yield for planting cotton 10 days after the selected rye maturity, but not after 20 days. In both growing seasons, at 20 days after rye reached early milk growth stage, rolling/planting treatments did not affect seed cotton yield. Since there were no significant differences in seed cotton yield planted 20 days after rye early milk growth stage, combining rye termination and planting cotton operations might be a valuable option in saving fuel, reducing engine’s emission to the environment, and saving time for cover crop management and cotton planting. Fuel consumption was 7.5 L h-1 and 9.3 L h-1 for separate rye rolling and cotton planting operations, respectively, which translates to 16.8 L h-1 for overall fuel usage from these operations. In contrast, the fuel usage from combined rolling and cotton planting was only 9.7 L h-1 compared to separate rye rolling and cotton planting, generating a 7.1 L h-1 fuel saving (42% reduction). In addition, combining operations takes half the time compared to conducting them separately at the same operating speed.