Skip to main content
ARS Home » Southeast Area » Houma, Louisiana » Sugarcane Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #337947

Title: Kenaf and cowpea as sugarcane cover crops

item Webber Iii, Charles
item White, Paul
item DALLEY, CALEB - North Dakota State University
item Petrie, Eric
item VIATOR, RYAN - Calvin Viator & Associates
item Landrum, Derek
item SHREFLER, JAMES - Oklahoma State University

Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/15/2017
Publication Date: 2/22/2017
Citation: Webber III, C.L., White, Jr, P.M., Dalley, C., Petrie, E.C., Viator, R.P., Landrum, D.S., Shrefler, J.W. 2017. Kenaf and cowpea as sugarcane cover crops [abstract]. Louisiana Agricultural Technology & Management Conference, February 15-17, 2017, Marksville, Louisiana.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: The use of cover crops during the fallow period prior to planting sugarcane has the potential to influence not only the following sugarcane crop, but the economics of the production system as a whole. Typically, a Louisiana sugarcane field is replanted every four years due to declining yields, and, although, it is a costly process, it is both necessary and an opportunity to maximize the financial return during the next four year cropping cycle. Research was conducted at the USDA, ARS, Sugarcane Research Unit, Houma, LA to determine the impact of unique cover crops on sugarcane production. The experiment included seven treatments; two cover crops, kenaf (Hibiscus cannabinus L.) and cowpeas (Vigna unguiculata L. Walp.), three harvest treatments for each cover crop, and a control. The kenaf and cowpeas were planted on 8 May 2013. The three harvest treatments included the removal of the cover crop at 50 days after planting (DAP), the removal of the harvested cover crop at 100 DAP, and lastly, cutting the cover crop at 100 DAP and incorporating the plant material into the soil prior to sugarcane planting. The control treatment did not have a cover crop. Sugarcane variety HoCP 96-540 was planted on 26 August 2013, 110 days after planting the cover crops. The plant cane was harvested on 17 November 2015. Although the sugarcane total recoverable sugar (TRS) (kg/mt) was greater with the kenaf cover-crop treatment 50 DAP (120 kg/mt) compared to the cowpea treatment 50 DAP (111 kg/mt) and the cowpea 100 DAP with the residue incorporated (112 kg/ha), none of the cover crop treatments were significantly better or worse than the control (no cover crop). The average values for the sugarcane production factors across all treatments were 95,700 plants/ha (plant population), 112 mt/ha (sugarcane yield), 114 kg/mt (sugar yield per metric ton of sugarcane), and 12,841 kg/ha (sugar yield per hectare). The results demonstrate the potential use of these alternative cover crops as cash crops that could be planted, harvested, and removed during the fallow period prior to planting sugarcane without adversely affecting the plant cane yields.