Long-term analysis of soil water conservation and crop yield under different tillage systems in Mediterranean rainfed conditions
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This study focuses on the quantification of soil water storage and crop yield under different tillage systems in dryland semiarid Mediterranean conditions. Three long-term tillage experiments based on cereal production were initiated in 1987, 1990 and 1992, at three different locations in the Ebro river valley (NE Spain): El Canós, Selvanera and Agramunt, with an increasing degree of aridity. Different tillage intensities were compared in each experiment using different implements: no tillage (NT), minimum tillage (MT), chisel (Ch), subsoiler up to 25 cm depth (Sub-25) and up to 50 cm (Sub-50), and mouldboard plough (Mb). Soil water content (SWC) up to 100 cm, soil water storage (SWS), precipitation storage efficiency (PSE) and crop yield were quantified during 8 (El Canós) and 19 years (Selvanera and Agramunt). The use of MT (at Selvanera) and NT (at El Canós and Agramunt) led to the highest SWC after the storage period (i.e. from previous harvest to crop tillering), with a major role played by the storage of water at deep soil layers. At Agramunt, Mb presented the lowest SWS when compared to Ch, Sub-50 and NT, and, consequently, the lowest post-tillering evapotranspiration. On the contrary, no differences were found between tillage systems on SWS at El Canós or at Selvanera. Significant yield differences were found at Agramunt being: NT > Sub-50 > Ch = Mb. These differences were especially important in years with mean yield below 2000 kg ha-1, in which NT obtained the highest productions. At Selvanera yield was greater under conservation tillage (NT, MT) than under intensive tillage (Sub-50). Contrarily, no yield differences were found between tillage systems at El Canós, the site with the lowest water deficit, where crop residues were removed. A strong linear relationship was found between SWS and yield at Agramunt and Selvanera. At Agramunt the relationship presented a greater slope under Mb. In this site, in years with previous harvest-to-tillering SWS below 100 mm and with precipitation over 100 mm between tillering and anthesis, yields were, as an average, 1245 kg ha-1 higher than in standard years. This study demonstrates that under semiarid rainfed conditions, soil water storage increases with the use of conservation tillage systems, being amplified with the degree of aridity of the site. The relationship between water stored in the soil and crop yield and its reliability is site-specific. Once determined, it could be used to predict yield at the end of the vegetative phase of the crop to help take management decisions.
Is part ofField Crops Research, 2016
European research projects
Except where otherwise noted, this item's license is described as cc-by-nc-nd, (c) Lampurlanés, 2016
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