CONSERVATION TILLAGE vs CONVENTIONAL TILLAGE SYSTEMS FOR COTTON: AN ECONOMIC COMPARISON
Approximately 40% of the cotton production in Louisiana is located in the Macon Ridge area of the state. The loess soils of this area are silt loam and are classified as highly erodible. Many of these soils have K values of 0.41 or greater. Slopes of these soils typically range from 3 to 5%, but may be 8% or higher (Martin et al., 1981). The USDA-SCS has estimated that sheet and rill erosion rates exceed the 3 tons/A tolerance (T) level on 80% of the cotton acreage in the Macon Ridge area (Hutchinson et al., 1991). Conservation of the topsoil in this area is particularly important because the layer of topsoil is very thin (approximately 4 to 6 inches). There are also naturally occurring dense subsoil layers called fragipans that inhibit root penetration (Hutchinson ef al., 1991). Given the importance of cotton production to this area of Louisiana and the amount of cotton produced on these types of soils, it is important for producers to be aware of possible advantages associated with alternative tillage systems. This economical study examines alternative tillage systems for cotton in this area and evaluates them within a whole-farm context. Results of this study should be helpful to farmers faced with the decision to modify production practices.