Growth, yield and water productivity of zero till wheat as affected by rice straw mulch and irrigation schedule uri icon

abstract

  • Intensive cultivation of rice and wheat in north-west India has resulted in air pollution from rice straw burning, soil degradation and declining groundwater resources. The retention of rice residues as a surface mulch could be beneficial for moisture conservation and yield, and for hence water productivity, in addition to reducing air pollution and loss of soil organic matter. Two field experiments were conducted in Punjab, India, to study the effects of rice straw mulch and irrigation scheduling on wheat growth, yield, water use and water productivity during 2006-2008. Mulching increased soil water content and this led to significant improvement in crop growth and yield determining attributes where water was limiting, but this only resulted in significant grain yield increase in two instances. There was no effect of irrigation treatment in the first year because of well-distributed rains. In the second year, yield decreased with decrease and delay in the number of irrigations between crown root initiation and grain filling. With soil matric potential (SMP)-based irrigation scheduling, the irrigation amount was reduced by 75 mm each year with mulch in comparison with no mulch, while maintaining grain yield. Total crop water use (ET) was not significantly affected by mulch in either year, but was significantly affected by irrigation treatment in the second year. Mulch had a positive or neutral effect on grain water productivity with respect to ET (WPET) and irrigation (WPi). Maximum WPi occurred in the treatment which received the least irrigation, but this was also the lowest yielding treatment. The current irrigation scheduling guidelines based on cumulative pan evaporation (CPE) resulted in sub-optimal irrigation (loss of yield) in one of the two years, and higher irrigation input and lower WPi of the mulched treatment in comparison with SMP-based irrigation scheduling. The results from this and other studies suggest that farmers in Punjab greatly over-irrigate wheat. Further field and modelling studies are needed to extrapolate the findings to a wider range of seasonal and site conditions, and to develop simple tools and guidelines to assist farmers to better schedule irrigation to wheat. (C) 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

publication date

  • 2011
  • 2011
  • 2011