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Impact of no-till, cover crop, and irrigation on Cotton yield

DeLaune, P.B, Mubvumba, P., Ale, S., Kimura, E.
Agricultural water management 2020 v.232 pp. 106038
conventional tillage, cotton, cover crops, cropping systems, developmental stages, irrigation scheduling, irrigation water, lint yield, no-tillage, soil profiles, stakeholders, strip tillage, water resources, water use efficiency, wheat, Great Plains region, Southeastern United States
Water is the limiting factor for crop production within the southern US Great Plains and it has become a critical resource for multiple stakeholders. Hence, efficient irrigation and cropping systems are of paramount importance to conserve water resources. The objective of this study was to determine the effect of irrigation timing and quantity, cover crop use and tillage on cotton production in an established conservation tillage system. Evaluated tillage systems included: 1) conventional tillage (CT); 2) strip-tillage (ST); 3) no-till (NT); and 4) NT with a terminated wheat cover crop (NT-W). Irrigation treatments included 1) 5.08-6.35 mm d⁻¹ initiated mid-season (LOW); 2) 6.35-8.38 mm d⁻¹ initiated mid-season (MED); and 3) 5.08-6.35 mm d⁻¹ initiated early-season (HIGH). No significant differences in lint yield or irrigation water use efficiency (IWUE) were observed between MED and HIGH. Although HIGH resulted in 12 % greater lint yields than LOW, HIGH resulted in 67 % greater irrigation water applications. LOW resulted in significantly greater IWUE than MED and HIGH. No-till systems, with and without a cover crop, had significantly greater lint yields and IWUE than CT. Furthermore, inclusion of wheat in NT increased yields and IWUE compared with ST. Applying irrigation water at a critical growth stage proved to be more water efficient than early season irrigation that was used to bank moisture in the soil profile. Delaying irrigation application until critical growth stages and using cover crops should be considered as best management approaches to conserve water resources while sustaining cotton production in the Southern Great Plains.