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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Florence, South Carolina » Coastal Plain Soil, Water and Plant Conservation Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #384598

Research Project: Managing Water Availability and Quality for Sustainable Agricultural Production and Conservation of Natural Resources in Humid Regions

Location: Coastal Plain Soil, Water and Plant Conservation Research

Title: Integrating perennial forages into Southeastern row cropping systems

item Billman, Eric
item Campbell, Benjamin - Todd
item Sigua, Gilbert
item REAY-JONES, FRANCIS - Clemson University
item INMAN, MATTHEW - Clemson University

Submitted to: Proceedings of the National Conference on Grazing Lands
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/1/2021
Publication Date: 12/9/2021
Citation: Billman, E.D., Campbell, B.T., Sigua, G.C., Reay-Jones, F.P., Inman, M.D. 2021. Integrating perennial forages into Southeastern row cropping systems. Proceedings of the National Conference on Grazing Lands.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Winter and spring forage production in the southeastern United States has long-been reliant on annual cool-season species to produce most of the biomass for grazing livestock. This is largely due to adverse climates and the prevalence of row cropping which prevent the adaptation and use of perennial cool-season species. However, novel management practices and crop pairings could allow for the incorporation of perennial cool-season forages that persist in the lower canopy and interrow spaces of row crops, such as cotton, and be grazed during the fall, winter, and spring. This would allow for lessened monetary and time costs to producers, as well as allow more ecologically friendly cropping systems. The ideal species for this work include red clover and white clover, both of which have improved cultivars that can persist in southern climates over the hot summer months. The objective of this study was to determine if perennial cool-season clovers could persist in the interrow spaces of a cotton row crop, and determine any subsequent effects on forage availability, nutritive value, persistence, and any negative effects this practice may have on the cotton row crop. Four treatments were evaluated using a 4×4 Latin square design: a) fallow, unplanted control, b) annual ryegrass, c) a mix of red and white clover, and d) a mix of annual ryegrass, red clover, and white clover. These treatments were planted on October 6, 2020 and fertilized with 30 pounds (lbs) of nitrogen (N) six weeks post-emergence, then another 60 lbs of N in late February 2021. Monthly stand and sward height assessments were conducted in February, March, and April 2021 for each treatment. Forage mass was also assessed by harvesting three 1 square foot quadrats per plot in mid-March and mid-April. Plots were then clipped to a 3-inch height, strip tilled, and sown with cotton. Annual ryegrass biomass was greatest (P < 0.05) and plots containing annual ryegrass contained the least weed pressure, while the perennial clover mixture had considerable weedy species biomass but good persistence into late spring. Continued research will focus on assessing the long-term persistence of these species through a cotton production season and subsequent forage masses of the clovers post-cotton harvest.