A field planted with a cover crop and used for winter grazing can be a valuable one-two punch for peanuts and cotton, improving the field’s soil health and increasing yields.
Dr. David Wright is an agronomist with the University of Florida, and he says peanuts or cotton strip-tilled and planted behind a grazing-cover system have more-robust root systems and use less water than a more conventional growing systems.
“Initially, we thought for a peanut that we might decrease yields because of the soil compaction, but what we found where cattle grazed cover crops that (the practice) actually doubles the root mass of peanut, and double the root mass of cotton, too,” Wright said,
Due to the vigorous roots, studies show the cover-grazing system, he said, can reduce irrigation by 40 percent to even 70 percent compared to more conventional growing system,. However, studies show the cover-grazing system doesn’t boost peanut yields, but system can boost cotton yields by 150 pounds to 300 pounds per acre.
The grazing system can help with the soil’s fertility mix as well, he said.
“We have seen doubling of, or even three or four times higher, nitrates, double the amount of potash in the root zone because of manure recycling nutrients, and for cotton that's really important. We have been making with 60 pounds of nitrogen following cattle, 1,400 to 1,800 pounds of lint. Most growers making those yields would be using double or triple that amount of nitrogen,” he said.
Wright explains more about the system in this video interview.