Alternative and Improved Cropping Systems for Virginia
Chim, Bee Khim
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Feed grain consumption in Virginia and the mid-Atlantic region is more than double the total production. Producing more feed grains in this region could generate more profit for grain growers and lower costs for end-users. Increased feed grain production in this region will necessitate improved corn (Zea mays L.) management techniques and adoption of alternative feed grains such as grain sorghum (Sorghum bicolor L.). In order to achieve our overall objective of increased corn and grain sorghum production in the region, experiments were conducted to assess tools with the ability to increase the efficiency of sidedress nitrogen (N) application for corn and to test the performance of grain sorghum in both full season and double-crop rotations in this region. For the corn studies, seven field experiments were established in 2012-2014 with four replications in a randomized complete block design. Treatments included a complete factorial of four different preplant N rate (0, 45, 90, 134 kg ha-1) with three different approach simulation model-prescribed rates (Virginia Corn Algorithm, Maize-N, Nutrient Expert-Maize) and the standard Virginia yield-goal based approach. No differences in corn yield were found between the different simulation model and preplant N rate, however the prescribed sidedress N rate varied significantly due to the simulation model, preplant N rate and the interaction between them. The nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) was estimated based on partial factor productivity (PFP) of nitrogen. The greatest PFP resulted from use of the Virginia Corn Algorithm (VCA), which produced 68 kg grain kg N-1 compared with 49 kg grain kg N-1 for the yield-goal based approach. While the VCA shows promise as a tool for improving NUE of sidedress applications in corn, more research is needed to validate performance. Soybean (Glycine max L.) is often double-cropped after small grain in the mid-Atlantic region. Growing grain sorghum in this niche in the cropping system instead could result in greater overall feed grain production. In order to assess the performance of grain sorghum as an alternative in common cropping systems, four field experiments were established at the Southern Piedmont Agriculture Research and Extension Center (SPAREC) and Tidewater Agriculture Research and Extension Center (TAREC), near Blackstone and Holland, Virginia, respectively. The experiments were conducted using a split plot design with four replications and fourteen treatments. Main plot was winter small grain crop; either barley (Hordeum vulgare L.), triticale (x Triticosecale.), wheat (Triticum aetivum L.) or winter-fallow and the subplot either soybean or sorghum. In three of four instances, full season sorghum yields were greater than double-cropped sorghum after small grain. At two locations, sorghum yields following triticale were lower than when following barley, possibly indicating an antagonistic or allelopathic effect of triticale. The most profitable cropping system was wheat-soybean based on the price assumptions and measure yields in this experiment. Among the sorghum cropping system, the most profitable system was also wheat-sorghum. Sorghum can be successfully grown in both full-season and double-crop systems and offers good potential to increase feed grain production in this region.
- Doctoral Dissertations