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International Journal of Agronomy
Volume 2011, Article ID 135097, 9 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2011/135097
Research Article

Can Leguminous Cover Crops Partially Replace Nitrogen Fertilization in Mississippi Delta Cotton Production?

1Crop Production Systems Research Unit, USDA-Agricultural Research Service, 141 Experiment Station Road, Stoneville, MS 38776, USA
2Southern Insect Management Research Unit, USDA-Agricultural Research Service, 141 Experiment Station Road, Stoneville, MS 38776, USA

Received 26 October 2010; Accepted 13 January 2011

Academic Editor: M. Tejada

Copyright © 2011 Robert M. Zablotowicz et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

Petroleum prices impact cotton nitrogen (N) fertilization cost. A field study was conducted from 2005 to 2007 to assess the interactions of cover crop (none, Austrian winter pea (Pisum sativum spp. arvense) or hairy vetch (Vicia villosa Roth)) and N fertilization (0, 67 or 134 kg N/ha applied at planting) on N availability and cotton yield under reduced-tillage management. Nitrogen content in desiccated residues averaged 49, 220, and 183 kg N/ha, in no cover crop, Austrian winter pea, and hairy vetch, respectively. Seventy percent of N in the above ground cover crop was derived from biological N fixation. In 2005, cover crops decreased cotton yield, while fertilizer N had no effect. In 2006, cover crops did not affect yield, but yield was positively correlated with N rate. In 2007, in no N plots, cotton yields were 65% higher in cover crops than in no cover crop. However, yield from N fertilized cover crop plots were similar to N fertilized no cover plots. These results indicate that leguminous cover crops can provide over 150 kg N/ha, but this N may not be as effective as fertilizer N for lack of synchronization between cotton N requirements and N release from residues.