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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Auburn, Alabama » Soil Dynamics Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #367988

Research Project: Conservation Systems to Improve Production Efficiency, Reduce Risk, and Promote Sustainability

Location: Soil Dynamics Research

Title: Effect of cover crop grazing on soil physical properties

item WILLIFORD, SYDNEY - Auburn University
item Balkcom, Kipling
item GAMBLE, AUDREY - Auburn University

Submitted to: ASA-CSSA-SSSA Annual Meeting Abstracts
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/3/2019
Publication Date: 11/11/2019
Citation: Williford, S., Balkcom, K.S., Gamble, A.V. 2019. Effect of cover crop grazing on soil physical properties[abstract]. ASA-CSSA-SSSA Annual Meeting. CD ROM.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: The use of cover crops can provide producers with the benefits of soil erosion reduction and improved soil structure. Benefits of cover crops are often maximized by maintaining high residue on the soil surface following cover crop termination. However, cover crops have potential to provide economic benefits to producers when grazing is allowed. Research is needed to determine cattle grazing strategies which optimize both soil health and animal production in Alabama row crop production systems. An experiment was established at the Wiregrass Research and Extension Center in Headland, AL to assess the effect of various grazing treatments on winter cover crops. Treatments included three cattle removal dates (i.e., mid-February, mid-March, and mid-April) and an untreated control with no grazing. All treatments were replicated 3 times in randomized complete block design, with each grazing paddock measuring 1.2 ha. Cattle grazing was initiated in early-January for cover crops planted in late-October. Physical properties (i.e., wet aggregate stability, penetration resistance, infiltration) were measured according to treatment. Aggregate stability was measured for 0-5, 5-10, 10-15 and 15-30 cm soil depths to determine the cohesiveness of the soil particles, as an indicator of how the soil will react to natural erosion events and farming practices that disrupt soil structure. Another measurement taken as a part of this study was soil penetrability, which was measured in situ following cover crop termination with a cone penetrometer and was used to assess soil compaction following grazing treatments. The final physical property measured in this experiment was water infiltration into the soil using a single-ring infiltrometer. This measurement was used to determine the ability of water to move into the soil profile. Results will be discussed.