Skip to main content
ARS Home » Southeast Area » Florence, South Carolina » Coastal Plain Soil, Water and Plant Conservation Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #395151

Research Project: Innovative Technologies and Practices to Enhance Water Quantity and Quality Management for Sustainable Agricultural Systems in the Southeastern Coastal Plain

Location: Coastal Plain Soil, Water and Plant Conservation Research

Title: Reducing inputs in Southeastern cotton production by incorporating perennial ground cover crops

item Billman, Eric
item FRANCIS, REAY-JONES - Clemson University

Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/31/2022
Publication Date: 11/6/2022
Citation: Billman, E.D., Francis, R. 2022. Reducing inputs in Southeastern cotton production by incorporating perennial ground cover crops. Meeting Abstract.

Interpretive Summary: Abstract only.

Technical Abstract: Cotton production systems of the southeastern U.S. are reliant on intensive chemical and physical inputs that limit both their economic and environmental sustainability. Multiple pesticide applications at planting, high water consumption, and increasing fuel, fertilizer, and labor expenses all pose risks to the 21st century producer. Alternative cropping systems can potentially reduce these inputs, thus mitigating producer risk. The objective of this study was to determine the effects of growing perennial groundcover crops in the interrow spaces of a cotton crop as related to biomass production, weed control, lint yield, and fiber quality. Four treatments, weedy fallow, annual ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum Lam.), a 50/50 mix of perennial red (Trifolium pratense L.) and white (Trifolium repens L.) clover, and a 50/50 mix of the clovers and annual ryegrass were established as a Latin square design in October 2020 at Clemson University’s Pee Dee Research and Education Center, Florence, SC. Cover crops were assessed for stand persistence and forage mass in March and April 2021, then mowed to 7.5 cm, with the fallow and annual ryegrass monoculture terminated with glyphosate. Plots were strip-tilled and planted with ‘DP 1840 B3XF’ cotton. No pesticides were applied aside from on-row banded glyphosate and defoliant. Biomass of the interrow spaces and stand counts of weeds vs perennial cover crops were collected and compared among treatments monthly from July – September. Finally, lint yields, fiber quality, and plant mapping were conducted at harvest. Results indicated that treatments containing clovers had a five-fold reduction in weed pressure compared to the fallow and killed annual ryegrass treatments. No differences were observed in lint yields or fiber quality, but clover populations declined by 60% from March to October due to drought. These findings suggest that perennial groundcover crops can be used to reduce inputs in cotton under carefully managed production systems.