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Soil Science Society of America Journal Abstract -

Conservation Tillage Systems for Cotton Production1


This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 49 No. 5, p. 1256-1260
    Received: Sept 19, 1984
    Accepted: Mar 21, 1985

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  1. S. M. Brown,
  2. T. Whitwell,
  3. J. T. Touchton and
  4. C. H. Burmester2



Cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.) production is intensive in many areas of the southeastern USA, and the common tillage system used is a highly erosive fall plow-winter fallow-spring disk. The primary purpose of this 3-yr field study was to evaluate seeding systems for winter cover crops, effect of cover crop management on cotton production, and N fertilizer requirements for cotton following various winter cover crops. Treatments consisted of (i) winter cropping systems [fall plow-winter fallow; winter fallow; and three cover crops, rye (Secale cereale L.), hairy vetch (Vicia villosa Roth.), and crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum L.)]; (ii) cover crop seeding methods (broadcast interseeded prior to cotton defoliation or drill seeded after picking); (iii) spring tillage (disk or no tillage prior to cotton planting); and (iv) N rates for cotton (0, 34, 67, and 101 kg N ha−1). The soil was a Decatur silt loam (clayey, kaolinitic, thermic, Typic Paleudults). Interseeding resulted in adequate cover crop stands for all covers each year, but drill seeded clover winter killed 2 out of 3 yr. Total N in the legume tissue at cotton planting was higher for interseeded (120–145 kg N ha−1) than drill seeded (33–86 kg N ha−1). In 1 of the 3 yr, cotton seedling mortality was higher with no tillage than disk tillage. None of the conservation-tillage systems resulted in higher cotton yields than the fall plow system. Planting into killed rye resulted in yields equal to the fall plow system, but more fertilizer N (approximately 34 kg N ha−1) was required for cotton planted into rye. When cotton followed vetch, yields were equal to the fall plow system in 2 of the 3 yr, and N fertilizer requirements were reduced approximately 34 kg ha−1. When compared with fall plow, no tillage into clover or winter fallowed soils resulted in inferior cotton yields each year.

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