Hydraulic conductivity, residue cover and soil surface roughness under different tillage systems in semiarid conditions
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The objective of this study was to investigate the effect of tillage and cropping system on near-saturated hydraulic conductivity, residue cover and surface roughness to improve soil management for moisture conservation under semiarid Mediterranean conditions. Three tillage systems were compared (subsoil
tillage, minimum tillage and no-tillage) under three field situations (continuous crop, fallow and crop after fallow) on two soils (Fluventic Xerochrept and Lithic Xeric Torriorthent). Soil under no-tillage had lower hydraulic conductivity (5.0 cm day 1 ) than under subsoil tillage (15.5 cm day 1 ) or minimum tillage (14.3 cm day 1 ) during 1 of 2 years in continuous crop due to a reduction of soil porosity. Residue cover at sowing was greater under no-tillage (60%) than under subsoil or minimum tillage (<10%) in continuous crop. Under fallow, residue cover was low (10%) at sowing of the following crop for all tillage systems in both soils. Surface roughness increased with tillage, with a high value of 16% and decreasing following rainfall. Under no-tillage, surface roughness was relatively low (3–4%). Greater surface residue cover under no-tillage helped conserve water, despite indications of lower hydraulic conductivity. To overcome the condition of low infiltration and high evaporation when no-till fallow is expected in a cropping sequence, either greater residue production should be planed prior to fallow (e.g. no residue harvest) or surface tillage may be needed during fallow.