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Cover Crop Biomass Harvest Influences Cotton Nitrogen Utilization and Productivity

There is a potential in the southeastern US to harvest winter cover crops from cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.) fields for biofuels or animal feed use, but this could impact yields and nitrogen (N) fertilizer response. An experiment was established to examine rye(Secale cereale L.) residue management (RM) and N rates on cotton productivity. Three RM treatments (no winter cover crop (NC), residue removed (REM) and residue retained (RET)) and four N rates for cotton were studied. Cotton population, leaf and plant N concentration, cotton biomass and N uptake at first square, and cotton biomass production between first square and cutout were higher for RET, followed by REM and NC. However, leaf N concentration at early bloom and N concentration in the cotton biomass between first square and cutout were higher for NC, followed by REM and RET. Seed cotton yield response to N interacted with year and RM, but yields were greater with RET followed by REM both years. These results indicate that a rye cover crop can be beneficial for cotton, especially during hot and dry years. Long-term studies would be required to completely understand the effect of rye residue harvest on cotton production under conservation tillage.

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