Effects of alternative cotton agriculture on avian and arthropod populations

Sandra B. Cederbaum, John P. Carroll, Robert J. Cooper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Among the major agricultural crops in the southeastern United States, cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.) generally provides the least suitable habitat for most early successional songbirds. Newer cropping approaches, such as use of conservation tillage and stripcover cropping, offer hope for improving the ecological value of cotton fields. We examined the effects of clover stripcover cropping with conservation tillage versus conventionally grown cotton with either conventional or conservation tillage on avian and arthropod species composition and field use in east-central Georgia. Stripcover fields had higher bird densities and biomass and higher relative abundance of arthropods than both conservation tillage and conventional fields. During migration and breeding periods, total bird densities on stripcover fields were 2-6 times and 7-20 times greater than on conservation and conventional fields, respectively. Abundance and biomass for epigeal arthropods were also greatest on stripcover fields during much of the breeding season. Although the clover treatment attracted the highest avian and arthropod densities, conservation fields still provided more wildlife and agronomic benefits than conventional management. Our findings suggest that both conservation tillage and stripcropping systems will improve conditions for birds in cotton, with stripcropped fields providing superior habitat. The reduction of inputs possible with the clover system could allow farmers to lower costs associated with conventional cotton production by $282-317/ha. This reduction of input, coupled with similar or possibly increased yield over conventional systems makes stripcover cropping not only a good choice for reducing negative impacts on wildlife and surrounding ecosystems, but also an economically desirable one.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1272-1282
Number of pages11
JournalConservation Biology
Volume18
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2004
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Agroecosystems
  • Alternative agriculture
  • Clover
  • Conservation tillage
  • Cover crop
  • Integrated pest management
  • Relay stripcover
  • Songbirds

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation

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