Integrating cover crops into the cotton production system can be a challenge, especially along the northern edge of the Cotton Belt. In recent years, there has been an increase in the use of cover crops in Tennessee and along with that, increased interest in and questions about cover crops. University of Tennessee Extension specialists have been evaluating the efficacy of different integration approaches for different years while also considering the pros and cons of introducing cover crops into cotton systems.
In "Thoughts About Cover Crops," a freely available webcast, Extension specialists Tyson B. Raper (an agronomist), Heather M. Kelly (a plant pathologist), and Scott D. Stewart (an entomologist) share their perspectives on integrating cover crops into the production system and the benefits and drawbacks of doing so. Many farmers opt to use cover crops for weed control, and weed suppression does increase with higher levels of biomass, but there are many concerns when introducing large quantities of biomass.
One concern is removing the cover crop in a way that enables growers to easily put seed into the ground. The standard no-till set-up doesn't work for large biomass, as it can often bind.
However, research has shown that earlier termination of the cover crop can help. Research also has shown that moving residue away from the rows helps with stand establishment. The recommendation is for growers to terminate 4 weeks prior to planting cotton, as this will allow almost all row-planter systems to process residue more easily.
This 33-minute presentation is available through the "Focus on Cotton" resource on the Plant Management Network. This resource contains more than 100 webcasts, along with presentations from a number of conferences, on a broad range of aspects of cotton crop management: agronomic practices, diseases, harvest and ginning, insects, irrigation, nematodes, precision agriculture, soil health and crop fertility, and weeds. These webcasts are available to readers open access (without a subscription).
The "Focus on Cotton" homepage also provides access to "Cotton Cultivated," a resource from Cotton Incorporated that helps users quickly find the most current cotton production information available. These and other resources are freely available courtesy of Cotton Incorporated at http://www.plantmanagementnetwork.org/foco.