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Soil Science Society of America Journal Abstract - SOIL FERTILITY & PLANT NUTRITION

Cotton Nitrogen Management in a High-Residue Conservation System: Cover Crop Fertilization


This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 72 No. 5, p. 1321-1329
    Received: Aug 27, 2007

    * Corresponding author(s): mreiter@vt.edu
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  1. M. S. Reiter *a,
  2. D. W. Reevesb,
  3. C. H. Burmesterc and
  4. H. A. Torbertd
  1. a Virginia Polytechnic Inst. and State Univ., Eastern Shore Agric. Research and Ext. Center, 33446 Research Dr., Painter, VA 23420
    b USDA-ARS, J. Phil Campbell Sr. Natural Resource Conserv. Center, 1420 Experiment Station Rd., Watkinsville, GA 30677
    c Auburn Univ., Agronomy and Soils Dep., 202 Funchess Hall, Auburn University, AL 36849
    d USDA-ARS, National Soil Dynamics Lab., 411 South Donahue Dr., Auburn, AL 36832


Nitrogen is required for adequate residue production from cereal cover crops used in no-till cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.) production, but residues can immobilize N needed by cotton. We conducted a 3-yr field study on a Decatur silt loam (clayey, kaolinitic, thermic Rhodic Paleudult) in northern Alabama to test N fertilizer practices for cotton grown with a rye (Secale cereale L.) cover crop and conservation tillage. Nitrogen rates applied to the rye cover crop were 0, 34, and 67 kg N ha−1 and cotton N rates were 0, 45, 90, and 135 kg N ha−1 Additionally, 15N microplots were established in cover crop N treatments of 34 kg N ha−1 and in cotton treatments of 90 kg N ha−1 Data collected included cover crop aerial biomass, cover crop C/N ratios, cotton leaf N at first flower, lint yield, lint quality, and 15N in plant and soil samples. Cotton grown in unfertilized rye treatments needed 57 to 60% (38–40 kg N ha−1) more N to maximize yields above median conventional tillage N recommendations (67 kg N ha−1). Cover crop N rates of 67 kg N ha−1 maximized cover crop biomass production for soil protection and soil organic matter aggradation. If the cover crop was fertilized, minimum cotton N applications of 70 and 76 kg N ha−1 were needed for economic optimum and maximum lint yield, respectively. We speculate that cotton N rates may be decreased in the future as new N and C pool equilibria are reached.

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