Cotton Yield as Related to Selected Physical and Chemical Properties of Soils of the Coastal Plain of Virginia and North Carolina
Cotton (Gossipium hiristum, L) is a warm season perennial with indeterminant growth habit. In 1995, 42,500 and 300,000 hectares were grown in Virginia and North Carolina, respectively. Soil physical and chemical properties may limit cotton yields. The objective of this study was to; 1) determine influences of soil physical and chemical properties on yield, 2) validate existing preharvest yield estimators, and 3) determine the effect of subsoiling and/or subsurface liming on cotton development and root growth. Two hundred sites were sampled across the Coastal Plain of Virginia and North Carolina to a depth of 92 cm representing 5 major soil series. Soil samples were analyzed for selected physical and chemical properties from each horizon. Boll and plant counts were obtained while harvesting a 3-meter length of row at each site to determine yield for the 1996 and 1997 growing season. Cotton was grown in the greenhouse on 30 cm diameter cores of a soil with low subsoil pH and a hard pan to determine the effects of subsoiling and/or subsurface liming. Ninety days after planting, the cotton plants were harvested and the above ground biomass and rootmass were analyzed. Physical and chemical properties explained 52% of yield variability in 1996 and 27% in 1997. Physical and chemical properties that were significant to yield were surface bulk density, available water holding capacity, depth of the water table and Bt horizon, Mg, K, Ca, and Al content. Soil analysis for nutrient status at depths up to 45 cm were better indicators of cotton yield. Subsoiling with or without subsurface liming increased rooting depth over the untreated check. The subsurface liming reached first flower 11 days prior to the other treatments. The additional period for flowering and boll set in Virginia and North Carolina could increase potential yield.