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Cover Crop and Tillage Influence on Growth, Yield, and Plant-Water Status of Cotton and Sorghum
Proceedings of the 2020 Mississippi Water Resources Conference

Year: 2020 Authors: Dhakal M., Locke M., Reddy K.


Improved and sustainable soil and crop management practices that reduce crop water use, optimize cotton and sorghum yields, and improve vadose zone water quality is a challenge in the Mississippi alluvial plain. A plot scale long-term agro-ecosystems research (LTAR) experiment was established in October 2018, Stoneville, MS, to examine the influence of tillage [no-tillage (NT) and conventional tillage (CT)], cover crop treatments [no-cover (NC) and cover crop (CC) (Austrian pea, Pisum sativum L.)], and crop rotation [cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.) and sorghum (Sorghum bicolor L.) (monocultures and rotation)] on crop cover, biomass, yield, water use efficiency, and soil N and organic matter dynamics. Data were collected from June to October 2019 pertaining to canopy cover, leaf area, vegetative mass, yield, and leaf water potential. Soil-water monitoring using capacitance probes to a 122-cm depth was begun in December 2019 and will be continued throughout the 2020 cash crop season. In this establishment year, preliminary results showed no effect of CC and tillage treatments on crop ground cover during vegetative growth from June to August (P > .05), however, weed cover was greater in NT (6.4%) than CT (3.8%) treatments (P < .05). Also, LWP wasn't affected by CC and tillage treatments (P > .05). Although the panicle density of sorghum was greater in CT-NC (16 panicles m-2) than CT-CC (11 panicles m-2), grain yield did not differ between conventional (CT and NC) and conservational practices (NT and CC) (P > .05) with a mean yield of 6.6 Mg ha-1. Similarly, cotton lint and seed yield (P > .05) were unaffected by the treatments, averaging 1.78 and 4.12 Mg ha-1, respectively. No-till cotton and sorghum management practices in conjunction with CC system may sustain productivity by producing comparable biomass and yield to conventional methods, but these results are considered preliminary in this first year of establishment.

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