Skip to main content
ARS Home » Southeast Area » Auburn, Alabama » Soil Dynamics Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #390617

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

Location: Soil Dynamics Research

Title: Cover crop influences on soil health and cotton produciton in Alabama

item DECKER, HANNAH - Auburn University
item JOHNSON, ANNA - Auburn University
item GAMBLE, AUDREY - Auburn University
item Balkcom, Kipling

Submitted to: National Cotton Council Beltwide Cotton Conference
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/28/2021
Publication Date: 5/6/2022
Citation: Decker, Hannah L., Johnson, Anna M., Gamble, Audrey V., and Balkcom, Kipling S. 2022. Cover crop influences on soil health and cotton production in Alabama. In S. Boyd and M. Huffman (eds.) Beltwide Cotton Conf., San Antonio, TX. 4-6 Jan. 2022 Nat. Cotton Counc. Cordova, TN.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: The southeastern United States has a long history of soil degradation, and cover crop utilization has the potential to restore soil productivity in crop production systems. Cover crops have been shown to increase soil organic matter, improve soil structure, and enhance nutrient-use efficiency. A study was established in 2017 at two locations in Alabama (WREC and TVREC) to examine the impact of cover crops on dynamic soil health indicators. Cover crop treatments including monocultures and combinations of cereal rye (Secale cereale), crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum), and Daikon radish (Raphanus sativus) as well as a fallow treatment were arranged in a randomized complete block design in cotton-legume cash crop rotations. Soil health indicators measured included permanganate oxidizable carbon (POXC), soil organic carbon (SOC), water stable aggregates (WSA), and soil strength (AUCC.I.). These soil properties as well as cash crop yield and cover crop biomass have been evaluated over a period of four years (2018-2021). At TVREC, SOC increased in the top 5 cm of soil over the four-year period, and some cover crop treatments were able to increase SOC and POXC compared to the fallow control. At WREC, SOC and POXC showed little effect due to cover crop treatment. WSA did not improve with cover cropping at either location. AUCC.I. results showed a relationship between higher biomass production and reduced soil strength, and many cover crop treatments were able to improve AUCC.I.. Cotton yield was higher in almost all cover crop treatments than the fallow at TVREC after four years of cover cropping, but WREC did not show an effect on cotton yield. Peanut yield was lower following clover cover crop compared to the fallow in 2019, but soybean was not affected by clover. Utilization of cover crops shows the potential to improve soil health and increase yield depending on the soil type and the cover crops used.