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Developing Conservation Tillage Systems for Cotton in the Tennessee Valley: In-Row Tillage and Cover Crop Effects

R.L. Raper, D.W. Reeves and C.H. Burmester


Declining cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.) yields have plagued farmers trying to eliminate tillage from their farms in the Tennessee Valley Region of North Alabama. Many farmers have tried to reduce tillage to meet conservation compliance programs, but have found inadequate rooting systems due to excessive soil compaction severely reduced yields. Experiments were initiated in this region in 1995 to develop conservation tillage systems that incorporated rye (Secale cereale L.) cover crops and in-row tillage as a method of maintaining surface cover and disrupting root-impeding layers. This research project also investigated energy requirements of shallow tillage (7") and deep tillage (13") performed in the fall and spring. Seed cotton yields similar to conventional cropping systems were found using the rye cover crop with no-tillage. Decreased yields were found when any form of spring tillage was used. Slightly improved yields occurred when shallow fall tillage was used with a winter cover crop. This conservation tillage practice may offer the best alternative for farmers trying to reduce the negative effects of soil compaction, maintain adequate residue cover, and improve seed cotton yield.

Reprinted from Proceedings of the 1998 Beltwide Cotton Conferences pp. 621 - 623
©National Cotton Council, Memphis TN

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Document last modified Sunday, Dec 6 1998