- Agronomic: grass (misc. annual), medics/alfalfa, rye, vetches, wheat
- Crop Production: cover crops, fallow, irrigation, no-till, strip tillage
- Natural Resources/Environment: soil stabilization
- Soil Management: soil quality/health
The imminent depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer demands innovative cropping alternatives to prevent dramatic losses of income when water levels are insufficient for irrigated row-crop production in the Southern High Plains. Integrating winter cover crops with summer crops maximizes land productivity and system profitability by improving water infiltration, stabilizing soils, and increasing potential income channels. Even though the benefits of cover crops for nutrient retention and erosion control are well recognized, adoption has been slow because of concerns that cover crops withdraw soil water to the detriment of the summer crop. This small-plot experiment will test the interacting effects of irrigation and tillage management techniques with five cover-crop species on soil water depletion and productivity of the cover and subsequent summer forage crop. The overall aim is to compare the success of residue management schemes in reducing irrigation needs for the water-limited Southern High Plains region. Data collection will include photographically monitoring ground cover of the cover crops, quantifying plant canopy characteristics and biomass, and monitoring soil water depletion. Research conclusions will be compiled into fact sheets readily available to producers through the Texas Alliance for Water Conservation (TAWC) annual Water College and electronic media, and to be distributed and demonstrated at TAWC and TTU Research Field Days. The impact of this project is two-fold: strengthen rural communities by ensuring the persistence of profitable agriculture in the region, and stabilizing the soil surface from excessive wind erosion and desiccation.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Compare persistence and productivity of five winter cover crop species under four water and tillage treatment combinations for ability to conserve soil water and promote growth of summer forage.
- Compare residual effects of cover crops and winter management strategies on the productivity and nutrient status of a subsequent no-till, irrigated summer teff hay crop. Potential effects include nitrogen supplied by legumes, allelopathy from wheat and rye, and depletion of ground water resources.
- Compile research conclusions into fact sheets readily available to producers through the TAWC outreach program and to be demonstrated at Texas Tech Research Field Days.