Tillage Requirements for Integrating Winter-Annual Grazing in Cotton Production: Plant Water Status and Productivity
- G. Siri-Prieto,
- D. Wayne Reeves * and
- R. L. Raper
Integrating livestock with cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.) offers profitable alternatives for producers in the southeastern USA, but could result in soil water depletion and soil compaction. We conducted a 3-yr field study on a Dothan loamy sand (fine-loamy, kaolinitic, thermic Plinthic Kandiudult) in southern Alabama to develop a conservation tillage system for integrating cotton with winter-annual grazing of stocker cattle under rainfed conditions. Winter annual forages and tillage systems were evaluated in a strip-plot design where winter forages were oat (Avena sativa L.) and annual ryegrass (Lolium mutiflorum L.). Tillage systems included moldboard and chisel plowing and combinations of noninversion deep tillage (none, in-row subsoil, or paratill) with or without disking. We evaluated forage dry matter, N concentration, average daily gain, net returns from grazing, soil water content, and cotton leaf stomatal conductance, plant populations, and yield. Net returns from winter-annual grazing were between US$185 to US$200 ha−1 yr−1 Soil water content was reduced by 15% with conventional tillage or deep tillage, suggesting that cotton rooting was increased by these systems. Oat increased cotton stands by 25% and seed-cotton yields by 7% compared with ryegrass. Strict no-till resulted in the lowest yields—30% less than the overall mean (3.69 Mg ha−1). Noninversion deep tillage in no-till (especially paratill) following oat was the best tillage system combination (3.97 Mg ha−1) but deep tillage did not increase cotton yields with conventional tillage. Integrating winter-annual grazing can be achieved using noninversion deep tillage following oat in a conservation tillage system, providing producers extra income while protecting the soil resource.Please view the pdf by using the Full Text (PDF) link under 'View' to the left.
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