Long-Term Conservation Agriculture and Intensified Cropping Systems: Effects on Growth, Yield, Water, and Energy-use Efficiency of Maize in Northwestern India uri icon


  • Conservation agriculture (CA)-based best-bet crop management practices may increase crop and water productivity, while conserving and sustaining natural resources. We evaluated the performance of rainy season maize during 2014 under an ongoing long-term trial (established in 2008) with three tillage practices, i.e., permanent bed (PB), zero tillage (ZT), and conventional tillage (CT) as main plots, and four intensified maize-based cropping systems, maize-wheat-mungbean, maize-chickpea-Sesbania (MCS), maizemustard-mungbean, and maize-maize-Sesbania) as subplot treatments. In the seventh rainy season of the experiment, maize growth parameters, yield attributes, yield, and water- and energy-use efficiency were highest at fixed plots under ZT. Maize growth parameters were significantly (P < 0.05) superior under ZT and PB compared with CT. Maize yield attributes, including cobs per m 2 (7.8), cob length (0.183 m), grain rows per cob (13.8), and grains per row (35.6), were significantly higher under ZT than CT; however, no significant effect of cropping systems was found on maize growth and yield attributes. Zero tillage exhibited the highest maize productivity (4 589 kg ha(-1)). However, among the cropping systems, MCS exhibited the highest maize productivity (4582 kg ha(-1)). In maize, water use was reduced by 80.2-120.9 mm ha(-1)- under ZT and PB compared with CT, which ultimately enhanced the economic water-use efficiency by 42.0% and 36.6%, respectively. The ZT and PB showed a 3.5%-31.8% increase in soil organic carbon (SOC) at different soil depths (0-0.45 m), and a 32.3%-39.9% increase in energy productivity compared with CT. Overall, our results showed that CA-based ZT and PB practices coupled with diversified maize-based cropping systems effectively enhanced maize yield and SOC, as well as water- and energy-use efficiency, in northwestern India.

publication date

  • 2018
  • 2017