Getting Better

Strategies for No-Tilling Cotton Successfully

Cotton may not be thought of a crop that is associated with no-till practices, but in parts of the southern Plains growers are using no-till systems to protect the soil and young cotton seedlings, improve emergence and log better yields.

In a drought year, no-till could mean the difference between having a crop or not. Planting cotton into wheat or rye residue helped many fields survive the harsh growing conditions in 2018, say crop specialists in Oklahoma and Texas.

 “In many areas it’s hard to find dryland cotton that is not in a no-till or conservation tillage system,” says Seth Byrd, Oklahoma State University Extension cotton specialist. “There was definitely a positive impact from cover crops. 

“I can tell you from personal experience that conventionally tilled dryland cotton had a rough time this year, particularly early on. From what I saw, the majority of our good-yielding dryland cotton (2 bales per acre or more) is likely coming from either no-till or reduced-tillage programs.”

 

No-Till Takeaways

• Heavier residue may affect herbicide effectiveness. Make any needed adjustments to products or rates.

• Terminate cover crops in a timely manner to preserve enough soil moisture for cash crops.

• Use covers to suppress weeds that emerge in spring and early summer in cotton fields to preserve water, nutrients and sunlight.

Cover crops normally provide increased soil moisture due to greater rainfall infiltration and reduction in evaporative losses, he notes. 

“Primarily, we typically see moisture from a rain hang around upper layers of…

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