From: "ARS News Service" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: "ARS News List" <email@example.com>
Subject: Scientific Help for Tennessee Valley Soils
Date: Tue, Aug 24, 1999, 4:35 AM
USDA Researchers Help Farmers Preserve Tennessee Valley Soils
ARS News Service
Agricultural Research Service, USDA
Tara Weaver-Missick, (301) 504-1619, firstname.lastname@example.org
August 24, 1999
Auburn, Ala., Aug. 24--U.S. Department of Agriculture and Auburn University
scientists are teaming up on a joint project to help cotton growers correct
soil problems in the Tennessee Valley, which includes Tennessee and parts of
Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia.
"Although the land is very fertile, the soils in this area are heavily
eroded and heavily compacted, and plant roots don't extend very deep into
the soil," said Agricultural Research Service Administrator Floyd P. Horn.
"About 60 percent of the soil in the Valley is highly erodible. Years of
conventional tillage, coupled with little crop rotation, have severely
depleted the soil organic matter, in some areas to less than 1 percent."
Conservation agronomist Ben Moore with USDA's Natural Resources Conservation
Service in Troy, Ala., has worked with Valley farmers to help them comply
with conservation management alternatives required by the Food Security Act
of 1985. Growers who followed these conservation practices in earlier years
had reduced yields. "That's mainly because crops previously grown under
conservation tillage were not as competitive as those grown under
conventional tillage," Moore said.
Agronomist D. Wayne Reeves and agricultural engineer Randy L. Raper, with
ARS' National Soil Dynamics Laboratory, in Auburn, Ala., were asked to help
growers develop soil management systems that would protect the soil from
erosion, which also allows them to maintain or improve cotton yields, reduce
input costs and improve soil quality.
In field studies, Reeves found deep tilling to 17 inches and planting a rye
cover crop in fall increases yields and reduces soil compaction. Three-year
average yields for this system were about 1,040 pounds of lint per acre.
"Our best conservation tillage treatment gave yields that were 14 percent
higher than conventional tillage and 18 percent higher than no tillage
without using a cover crop, the system Tennessee Valley farmers adopted when
they first went to conservation tillage," Reeves said. "At current prices
for cotton, fall deep tillage in combination with a rye cover crop paid for
itself more than three times over."
An in-depth article appears in the August issue of Agricultural Research
magazine. The story is also on the World Wide Web at:
Scientific contacts: D. Wayne Reeves and Randy L. Raper, ARS National Soil
Dynamics Laboratory, Auburn, Ala., phone (334) 844-4666 [Reeves], (334)
844-4654 [Raper], email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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