Effect of Tillage and Crop Establishment Methods on Physical Properties of a Medium-Textured Soil under a Seven-Year Rice−Wheat Rotation
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Rice-wheat (Oryza sativa L.-Triticum aestivum L.) rotation is the major production system in Asia, covering about 18 million ha. Conventional practice of growing rice (puddled transplanting) and wheat (conventional till, CT) deteriorate soil physical properties, and are input- and energy-intensive. Zero-tillage (ZT) along with drill-seeding have been promoted to overcome these problems. A 7-yr permanent plot study evaluated various tillage and crop establishment (CE) methods on soil physical properties with an aim to improve soil health and resource-use efficiency. Treatments included transplanting and direct-seeding of rice on flat and raised beds with or without tillage followed by wheat in CT and ZT soil. Bulk density (D-b) of the 10- to 20-cm soil layer was highest under puddled treatments (1.74-1.77 Mg m(-3)) and lowest under ZT treatments (1.66-1.71 Mg m(-3)). Likewise, soil penetration resistance (SPR) was highest at the 20-cm depth in puddled treatments (3.46-3.72 MPa) and lowest in ZT treatments (2.51-2.82 MPa). Compared with conventional practice, on average, water-stable aggregates (WSAs) > 0.25 mm were 28% higher in ZT direct-seeding with positive time trend of 4.02% yr(-1). Infiltration was higher (0.29-0.40 cm h(-1)) in ZT treatments than puddled treatments (0.18 cm h(-1)). The least-limiting water range was about double in ZT direct-seeding than that of conventional practice. Gradual improvement in soil physical parameters in ZT system resulted in improvement in wheat yield and is expected to be superior in long-run on system (rice+wheat) basis. Further research is needed to understand mechanisms and requirements of two cereals with contrasting edaphic requirements in their new environment of ZT direct-seeding.
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