Integrating Cover Crops into Strip-Till Cropping Systems in a Semi-Arid Environment
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Integration of strip tillage and cover cropping has potential to improve soil tilth and reduce input costs of cropping systems in south Texas. Quantification of effects on crop yield and soil properties are necessary in this region. The objective of this experiment was to assess the effects of integrated strip tillage and cool-season legume cover cropping in a continuous cotton (Gossypium hirsutum ‘DP 0935’)-sorghum (Sorghum bicolor ‘GA 3696’) rotation with limited irrigation in Beeville, TX, and an irrigated cotton-corn (Zea mays ‘GA 3696’) rotation establishment year in Uvalde, TX. Trials were planted in a randomized complete block design with split-split plots. The main effect was row crop, with split-plots strip-tilled into the residue of four legume species (Medicago polymorpha ‘Armadillo’; M. minima ‘Devine’; M. lupulina ‘BEEBLK’; or Trifolium hirtum ‘Hykon’), or control (plow-tilled/winter fallow). At the Beeville site, the split-split plot treatment was cutting and removal of the cover crops from half of each plot. Herbage mass of the cover crops was not different (P > 0.20) between species at Beeville in either year. There were no interactions (P > 0.41) between cover crop/tillage and cutting regime for cotton and sorghum yields in either year. In the establishment year, cutting regime tended to reduce (P > 0.10) sorghum yield. In Year 2, no differences in cotton (P > 0.56) or sorghum (P > 0.15) yield occurred among treatments. In Uvalde, Armadillo had greater (P = 0.003) herbage mass in Year 2. Cover crop treatments did not affect (P > 0.22) target crop yields, although, in Year 2, treatments with cover crops cut and removed had increased (P = 0.08) cotton yield and boll count (P = 07). Changes in soil nutrient status in response to cover cropping were not consistent. Initial results indicate that integrated strip tillage and cover cropping will not negatively affect yields in southern Texas, but additional years of replication are necessary to evaluate potential improvements in soil tilth.
Noland, Reagan Lee (2014). Integrating Cover Crops into Strip-Till Cropping Systems in a Semi-Arid Environment. Master's thesis, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from