Conservation Tillage Systems in the Southeast

Cash Crop Selection and Crop Rotations

SARE Outreach
2020 | 310 pages

Agronomic crops dominate the row crop acreage in the two MLRAs. The primary agronomic cash crops grown are corn, small grains (primarily winter wheat), soybeans, peanuts, cotton and tobacco. Sweet potatoes and many types of fruits and vegetables including onions, cucumbers, watermelons, pumpkins and strawberries are also grown on smaller acreages. Cash crop selection depends on a number of factors, including growing-season climate, availability of a market, a contract to grow, local infrastructure, government programs and availability of labor. For individual fields, cash crop selection depends on soil type, irrigation capacity and the species of weeds, soilborne diseases and nematodes in the field. Crop price, production cost and potential net income are primary considerations in crop selection.

Even though most of the soils in the southern Coastal Plain have a low water-holding capacity, farmers in this region widely grow cotton, peanuts and soybeans without irrigation. These crops, along with tobacco, produce yield over a longer time, as compared to corn. This makes them a lower risk for substantial yield loss due to short-term drought. The region’s climate is also favorable, because a greater percentage of the yield is produced during August and September, when evapotranspiration is lower and rainfall more closely matches evapotranspiration.

Many different crop rotations are used in these MLRAs. Because of the long growing season, growing two crops in the same year (double-cropping) is common. For example, about half of the soybean acreage in South Carolina is planted immediately after winter-wheat harvest. When winter cash crops are not grown, cover crops are often planted for soil protection and improvement.

Rotations are often used for pest management. To control pod disease in peanuts, maintain a minimum three-year rotation, with non-legume crops grown in two of the years. Rotations with cotton and corn are common in a peanut crop rotation. Several species of nematodes infest the soils of the Southern Coastal Plain and Atlantic Coast Flatwoods. Rotations that include non-susceptible crops can be an economically effective management option (Chapter 12).

Download the tables from Chapter 18.