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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Auburn, Alabama » Soil Dynamics Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #372699

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

Location: Soil Dynamics Research

Title: Impact of winter cover crop grazing on soil health in southeastern cropping systems

item CROWELL, HAYLEY - Auburn University
item GAMBLE, AUDREY - Auburn University
item FENG, YUCHENG - Auburn University
item Balkcom, Kipling

Submitted to: American Society of Agronomy Branch Meeting
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/31/2020
Publication Date: 2/1/2020
Citation: Crowell, H., Gamble, A.V., Feng, Y., Balkcom, K.S. 2020. Impact of winter cover crop grazing on soil health in southeastern cropping systems [abstract]. Southern Branch - American Society of Agronomy Meeting. CDROM.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Soils in the Coastal Plain are often degraded and characterized by low organic carbon as a result of historically intense row cropping. A rotation of cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.) and peanut (Arachis hypogaea L.) under conventional tillage is typical in this region, but an opportunity to encourage diversification of rotations that improve soil quality exists. If managed properly, combining annual winter grazing of cover crops in a cotton-peanut (CP) rotation under conservation tillage may provide additional soil organic matter to improve soil health and fertility. Studies are needed to establish guidelines for integrated livestock systems (ICL) which maximize soil health benefits while maintaining yield and providing quality forage for livestock. A study was established at the Wiregrass Research and Extension Center in Headland, AL to determine the effects of an ICL in which winter grazing livestock were incorporated into a CP rotation with a winter cover crop mixture of ‘Cosaque’ oats, ‘FL401’ rye, ‘Sunrise’ crimson clover, and ‘T-raptor’ brassica. Three treatments of cattle removal dates (i.e., mid-February, mid-March, mid-April) and an ungrazed control were compared to assess the effect of grazing period length on permanganate oxidizable carbon (POXC), microbial biomass-carbon (MBC), and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) colonization rates. POCX, MBC, and AMF colonization rates are known to be reactive to management changes. This study will be conducted over two years. Significant differences in soil health were not detected between cattle removal dates in 2019, but 2020 data may provide insight on the effects grazing livestock have on soil health, as more time under this management may be needed to measure effects.