Skip to main content
ARS Home » Southeast Area » Auburn, Alabama » Soil Dynamics Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #334156

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

Location: Soil Dynamics Research

Title: Effects of cover crop termination and cotton planting methods on cotton production in conservation systems

Author
item Duzy, Leah
item Kornecki, Ted

Submitted to: Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/14/2017
Publication Date: 12/14/2018
Citation: Duzy, L.M., Kornecki, T.S. 2018. Effects of cover crop termination and cotton planting methods on cotton production in conservation systems. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems. p. 1-9. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1742170517000631.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S1742170517000631

Interpretive Summary: In conservation agriculture, cover crops are used to improve soil health and to increase crop yields. Termination is an important part of cover crop management. With lower profits and less time and labor, farmers are looking for ways to reduce time and labor needed to terminate cover crops while maintaining or increasing profitability. This study examined the effect of different combinations of terminating a cereal rye and planting cotton on population, cotton yield, costs, and net returns; and how combined operations affect labor, fuel use, and carbon emissions in a conservation system. Cereal rye followed by cotton was planted in central Alabama for 3 years. Treatments included cotton planted directly into standing cereal rye, cover crops terminated before cotton planting using mechanical and/or chemical termination, and cover crop termination combined with cotton planting using chemical and/or mechanical termination. Converting to mechanical and chemical termination combined with planting could potentially reduce carbon emissions from fuel use and labor hours associated with cover crop termination and cotton planting. Our results provide farmers with more information regarding different cover crop termination and cotton planting methods in a conservation system.

Technical Abstract: In conservation agriculture, cover crops are utilized to improve soil properties and to enhance cash crop growth. One important part of cover crop management is termination. With smaller profit margins and constraints on time and labor, producers are looking for ways to reduce time and labor required to terminate cover crops while maintaining or increasing profitability. This study examined the effect of eleven different combinations of terminating cereal rye (Secale cereale L.) and planting cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.) on population, seed cotton yield, total costs, and net returns; and how combined operations affect labor, fuel consumption, and carbon (CO2) emissions in a conservation system. Cereal rye followed by cotton was planted in central Alabama during the 2009 to 2011 crop years. Treatments included cotton planted directly into standing cereal rye, cover crops terminated at early milk growth stage using mechanical (roller or roller/crimper) and/or chemical termination followed by cotton planting, and cover crop termination combined with cotton planting using chemical and/or mechanical termination. While 2011 had the lowest plant populations, there was no year effect for seed cotton yields, total costs, or net returns. Mechanical and/or chemical termination yielded higher plant populations (26%), seed cotton yields (18.3%), and net returns (17.2%) than cotton planted into standing rye; however, treatments with mechanical and/or chemical termination also had 23.8% higher costs due to increased fuel usage, machinery and labor hours, and yield varying costs. While mechanical and chemical termination had slightly higher total costs compared to mechanical termination alone (6.5%), plant populations, seed cotton yields, and net returns were 11.42%, 6.4%, and 6.5% higher, respectively. Converting from three separate operations for cover crop termination and cotton planting to mechanical and chemical termination combined with planting, producers could potentially reduce CO2 emissions from fuel use and labor hours associated with cover crop termination and cotton planting by up to 51%. Our results provide producers with more information regarding the influence of different termination and cotton planting methods in a conservation system. In the end, producers must decide the most appropriate method for cover crop termination and cash crop planting given their particular challenges and goals.