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The effects of rotating conservation tillage with conventional tillage on soil properties and grain yields in winter wheat-spring maize rotations

The effects of rotating conservation tillage with conventional tillage on soil properties and grain yields in winter wheat-spring maize rotations

Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 263: 107-117

Intensive tillage in conventional tillage systems reinforces water stress effects on crop growth, limiting yields from dryland agriculture. Conservation tillage can reduce soil evaporation and conserve more soil water in fields, but long-term, mono-conservation tillage may lead to low crop yields. The rotation of conventional tillage with conservation tillage may offset some of the defects generated by the mono-tillage practices of either conventional or conservation tillage, improve crop yields and provide better soil conditions. A long-term tillage rotation experiment (2007-2016) was established to assess the effects of rotating conservation tillage with conventional tillage on soil water and crop productivity in a winter wheat-spring maize rotation field in Heyang County, Shaanxi Province, a typical semi-arid region of the Loess Plateau, China. Four tillage treatments were applied over ten years, as follows: ST/CT (subsoiling was performed during the first year then rotated with conventional tillage in the second year), CT/NT (conventional tillage during the first year and then rotated with no-tillage in the second year), NT (no tillage applied in any year) and CT (conventional tillage applied annually). Compared with CT and NT, the CT/NT rotation significantly decreased the soil bulk density and increased the soil porosity in the 0-60 cm soil layer after ten years (P < 0.05). The CT/NT and ST/CT rotations increased the minimum soil temperature during the wheat growth season and decreased the maximum soil temperature during the maize growth season. In fallow periods, the mean soil water storage and soil water content values for the CT/NT rotation were 8.7% and 4.8-10.1% higher than those of the CT treatment, respectively. The CT/NT rotation consumed more soil water during the winter wheat growth season and less soil water during the spring maize growth season compared to the NT and CT treatments. Over ten years, the ST/CT rotation produced higher crop yields (winter wheat: 5231 kg ha(-1), spring maize: 8388 kg ha(-1)), while the CT/NT rotation had a higher WUE (winter wheat: 15.5 kg ha(-1) ST/CT: 20.6 kg ha(-1) mm(-1)) than either NT or CT alone. The CT/NT rotation also had an increased straw yield (mean value: 9952 kg ha(-1)) and economic profit (6776 yuan ha(-1)). Moreover, the CT/NT and ST/CT rotations provided an optimal SOC distribution in the 0-60 cm soil layer. With respect to comprehensive productivity, the CT/NT rotation provided relatively better soil conditions and crop yields during the winter wheat-spring maize rotations. We recommend using the CT/NT rotation as the optimal tillage system for the sustainable production of crops under conditions of semi-arid agricultural production in the Loess Plateau of China.

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Accession: 066377139

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DOI: 10.1016/j.agrformet.2018.08.012

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