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Agriculture 2018, 8(2), 19; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture8020019

Living Mulch Performance in a Tropical Cotton System and Impact on Yield and Weed Control

1
Horticulture Section, School of Integrative Plant Science, Cornell University, 236 Tower Rd., Ithaca, NY 14853, USA
2
Soil and Crop Sciences Section, School of Integrative Plant Science, Cornell University, 306 Tower Rd., Ithaca, NY 14853, USA
3
Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering, Cornell University,111 Wing Dr., Ithaca, NY 14853, USA
Deceased.
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 19 November 2017 / Revised: 20 January 2018 / Accepted: 25 January 2018 / Published: 31 January 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Crop Production Intensification)
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Abstract

Cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.) is a major crop in the Vidarbha region of central India. The vertisol soils on which much of the cotton is grown have been severely degraded by the tropical climate, excessive tillage and depletion of organic matter. Living mulches have the ability to mitigate these problems but they can cause crop losses through direct competition with the cotton crop and unreliable weed control. Field experiments were conducted in 2012 and 2013 at four locations in Vidarbha to study the potential for growing living mulches in mono-cropped cotton. Living mulch species evaluated included gliricidia [Gliricidia sepium (Jacq.) Kunth ex Walp.], sesbania [Sesbania sesban (L.) Merr.], sorghum sudan grass [Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench × Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench ssp. Drummondii (Nees ex Steud.) de Wet & Harlan] and sunnhemp (Crotalaria juncea L.). Living mulch height was controlled through mowing and herbicides were not used. Living mulches generated 1 to 13 tons ha−1 of dry matter across sites and years. Weed cover was negatively correlated with both living mulch biomass and cover. Where living mulches were vigorous and established quickly, weed cover was as low as 7%, without the use of herbicides, or inter-row tillage. In a dry year, living mulch growth had a negative impact on cotton yield; however, in a year when soil moisture was not limiting, there was a positive relationship between cotton yield and living mulch biomass. Use of living mulches in cotton production in the Vidarbha region of India is feasible and can lead to both effective weed suppression and acceptable cotton yields. View Full-Text
Keywords: cotton; cover crops; semi-arid cropping systems; gliricidia; India; living mulches; tropical intercropping systems; sesbania; sunnhemp; sustainable agriculture; Vidarbha; weed management cotton; cover crops; semi-arid cropping systems; gliricidia; India; living mulches; tropical intercropping systems; sesbania; sunnhemp; sustainable agriculture; Vidarbha; weed management
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Bhaskar, V.; Bellinder, R.R.; DiTommaso, A.; Walter, M.F. Living Mulch Performance in a Tropical Cotton System and Impact on Yield and Weed Control. Agriculture 2018, 8, 19.

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