Abstracts

Can Cover Crops and Reduced Tillage Improve Surface Water Runoff Quality and Soil Health in the Mississippi Delta Alluvial Plain?

Author(s): Locke, M.

Cover crops and reduced tillage are in the toolbox of conservation management practices that need to be assessed in the alluvial plain of the Lower Mississippi River Basin to balance goals for production goals with natural resource concerns. Results from a series of USDA-ARS studies in the Mississippi Delta assessing effects of cover crops on water and soil quality in row crops are reviewed here. Synthesis of results from these studies showed that: (a) Cover crop and reduced tillage resulted in moderate increases in soil organic carbon and soil nitrogen at the soil surface; (b) Biological activity in surface soils was enhanced by cover crops (e.g., enzymes, mycorrhizae), but effects diminished with soil depth; (c) Total runoff sediment loss was reduced by no-tillage and cover crop; (d) Nitrogen and phosphorus associated with runoff sediment were reduced in no-tillage and cover crop; (e) Soluble nitrogen and phosphorus in runoff was variable, and was sometimes higher in no-tillage and cover crop areas.

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