Investigating crop rotational benefits of a soybean and sugarcane cropping system in South Africa.
Crop rotation is not commonly practised in the sugarcane industry in South Africa. It has, however, proven to be beneficial to other crops in South Africa. The objective of this study was to determine the impact of soybean-sugarcane crop rotation on selected physiological and phenological indicators of sugarcane performance and its subsequent effect on cane and estimated recoverable crystal (ERC) yields. A field trial was conducted at Mount Edgecombe, where soybean cultivar A5409RG and sugarcane cultivar NCo376 were planted under drip irrigation with different management practices. After the soybean crop, the following sugarcane crop was planted and fertilized with different levels of nitrogen (N) fertilizer (50% and 100% of the recommended N rate). The effects on sugarcane growth were recorded by taking into consideration date of emergence, plant height, tiller population, leaf N, plant performance index and chlorophyll content. Sugarcane yield and quality at harvest were also evaluated. Tiller population in all crop rotation treatments at Mount Edgecombe weresignificantly (P<0.05) higher than the monocrop treatment. There was a trend of increased leaf N in all of the cane-after-soya (crop rotation) crops compared to the cane-after-cane (monocrop) treatment, although this was not significant. A similar pattern was obtained with respect to the chlorophyll content and plant performance index. Sugarcane yields at Mount Edgecombe did not differ significantly between monocrop and crop rotation treatments. Crop rotation with soybean is beneficial for cane production, but its long term impact on soil quality and farm economy requires further investigation.
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