- Agronomic: cotton, peanuts, soybeans
- Crop Production: double cropping, intercropping
- Production Systems: general crop production
One major advantage the Southern U.S. has over other crop production areas is a long growing season, making it possible to double-crop winter and summer crops. The most popular double-cropping system is winter wheat followed by soybean. Some growers are currently double-cropping cotton and peanut after wheat; however, the longer growing season requirements for cotton and peanut limit the yield potential for these cropping systems.
Recently, growers in the Southern U.S. are facing new production problems that are either reducing farm profits and sustainability or threatening soil conservation practices:
- With herbicide-resistant weeds spreading throughout the Southeast, soil-applied residual herbicides have become the most adopted method to manage herbicide-resistant weeds (such as Palmer amaranth). An aggressive soil and foliar herbicide program can cost up to $40/acre; however, hand-weeding, cultivation, and crop abandonment will cost growers over $900/acre in lost revenue and increased production costs. Cover crops can be used effectively to suppress herbicide-resistant weeds; however, growers often express frustration with the poor performance of no-till coulters on their planting equipment in dealing with the crop residue.
- Control costs for and damage caused by insects also pose production problems perennially. According to loss estimates provided in the Proceedings of the Beltwide Cotton Production Conferences, cotton producers across the USA lost about $100 million to thrips during 2008-2010. With at-plant preventative treatments and foliar applications combined, control costs during the same period are in the tens of millions as well. Thrips were ranked as the second most important group of cotton insect pests in 2011 across the USA, but represented the most important group in the Southeast last season.
- Additionally, nematodes cause hundreds of millions of dollars in yield losses annually to USA cotton, soybean, and peanut. Nematode management relies heavily on the use of nematicides such as Temik 15G ($15-18/acre) or Telone II ($42/acre); However, the most effective tool for managing nematodes (aldicarb — AgLogic 15G) currently is only available in the Southeastern USA in limited amounts. In addition, currently there is a shortage of Telone II nematicide in the USA.
- Finally, the cost of fuel represents over 30% of the total costs of owning and operating farm tractors. It is important that every effort be made to reduce energy use in agricultural production from both standpoints of economics and availability.
A double-cropping system developed at Clemson University allows interseeding or planting of one crop such as soybean, cotton, or peanut into a second crop, such as winter wheat, 2-3 weeks before harvest of the second crop. This system has the potential to overcome all of the production problems cited above.
The overarching goal of this demonstration project was to assist producers of cotton, soybean, peanut, and wheat with adoption of innovative conservation technologies and approaches for crop production to enhance soil properties, environmental quality, and farm profits, while reducing energy consumption and pest occurrence. Our supporting Objectives included:
- Establish two on-farm research sites “Prototype Fields” to directly train growers in the use, benefits, and effectiveness of interseeding technology;
- Modify farmers’ equipment (or utilize our own equipment) to allow for interseeding, and provide training and support to ensure proper use; and
- Implement an aggressive training program for crop consultants and county Extension agents to become the primary providers of interseeding technology for growers beyond the geographic and time limitations of this project.