Effects of Winter Cover Crops on Cotton Yield and Selected Soil Properties

Terry C. Keisling, H.D. Scott, B.A. Waddle, W. Williams, and R.E. Frans


Winter cover crop studies were conducted for 17 years with cotton grown on a Dubbs-Dundee soil complex at the University of Arkansas Delta Branch Experiment Station. This experiment was established in 1972 to investigate the changes induced by winter cover crops of rye, vetch, and lupine. The rye and lupine were later changed to rye + vetch and rye + crimson clover, resp. Cotton yield responses to cover crops were found to be highly dependent on the growing season. Although the cover crops averaged a seedcotton yield increase, certain years had drastic yield reductions. This experiment was not designed with sufficient scope to address why yield responses occurred as they did. Soil physical properties of hydraulic conductivity, water retention, porosity, proportion of large pores were found to be measurable changed by having winter cover crops. In general the change in soil physical properties resulting from the cover crops would result in faster infiltration and transmission of water, more stored water, less crusting, better ability of soil to ameliorate and degrade herbicides and increased improved soil tilth. The change in these properties may be to small to result in practically cost effective changes. However, it would seem reasonable to assume that if current trends continue the impact would eventually become large enough to become a major concern.

Reprinted from 1990 Proceedings: Beltwide Cotton Production Research Conferences pp. 492 - 496
©National Cotton Council, Memphis TN

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Document last modified Sunday, Dec 6 1998