In subtropical regions, we have an incomplete understanding of how long-term tillage, stubble, and nitrogen (N) fertilizer management affects soil biological functioning. We examined a subtropical site managed for 50 years using varying tillage (conventional till (CT) and no-till (NT)), stubble management (stubble burning (SB) and stubble retention (SR)), and N fertilization (0 (N0), 30 (N30), and 90 (N90) kg ha−1 y−1) to assess their impact on soil microbial respiration, easily extractable glomalin-related soil protein (EEGRSP), and N mineralization. A significant three-way tillage × stubble × N fertilizer interaction was observed for soil respiration, with NT+SB+N0 treatments generally releasing the highest amounts of CO2 over the incubation period (1135 mg/kg), and NT+SR+N0 treatments releasing the lowest (528 mg/kg). In contrast, a significant stubble × N interaction was observed for both EEGRSP and N mineralization, with the highest concentrations of both EEGRSP (2.66 ± 0.86 g kg−1) and N mineralization (30.7 mg/kg) observed in SR+N90 treatments. Furthermore, N mineralization was also positively correlated with EEGRSP (R2 = 0.76, p < 0.001), indicating that EEGRSP can potentially be used as an index of soil N availability. Overall, this study has shown that SR and N fertilization have a positive impact on soil biological functioning.
In a no-till system, there are many different methods available for terminating cover crops. Mechanical termination, utilizing rolling and crimping technology, is one method that injures the plant without cutting the stems. Another popular and commercially available method is mowing, but this can cause problems with cover crop re-growth and loose residue interfering with the planter during cash crop planting. A field experiment was conducted over three growing seasons in northern Alabama to determine the effects of different cover crops and termination methods on cantaloupe yield in a no-till system. Crimson clover, cereal rye, and hairy vetch cover crops were terminated using two different roller-crimpers, including a two-stage roller-crimper for four-wheel tractors and a powered roller-crimper for a two-wheel walk-behind tractor. Cover crop termination rates were evaluated one, two, and three weeks after termination. Three weeks after rolling, a higher termination rate was found for flail mowing (92%) compared to lower termination rates for a two-stage roller (86%) and powered roller-crimper (85%), while the control termination rate was only 49%. There were no significant differences in cantaloupe yield among the rolling treatments, which averaged 38,666 kg ha−1. However, yields were higher for cereal rye and hairy vetch cover crops (41,785 kg ha−1 and 42,000 kg ha−1) compared to crimson clover (32,213 kg ha−1).
Summer grass weed species are a particular problem in the northeast cropping region of Australia because they are prolific seeders and favor no-till systems. Information on weed seed persistence levels can be used for the development of effective and sustainable integrated weed management programs. A field study was conducted over 42 months to evaluate the seedbank persistence of Chloris truncata, C. virgata, Dactyloctenium radulans, and Urochloa panicoides as affected by burial depth (0, 2, and 10 cm). Regardless of species, buried seeds persisted longer than surface seeds and there was no difference in seed persistence between 2 and 10 cm depths. Surface seeds of C. truncata depleted completely in 12 months and buried seeds in 24 months. Similarly, C. virgata seeds placed on the soil surface depleted in 12 months. Buried seeds of this species took 18 months to completely deplete, suggesting that C. truncata seeds persist longer than C. virgata seeds. Surface seeds of D. radulans took 36 months to completely deplete, whereas about 7% of buried seeds were still viable at 42 months. U. panicoides took 24 and 42 months to completely exhaust the surface and buried seeds, respectively. These results suggest that leaving seeds on the soil surface will result in a more rapid depletion of the seedbank. Information on seed persistence will help to manage these weeds using strategic tillage operations.
Reduced soil tillage is a powerful means to mitigate soil degradation. However, in arid climates, no-till rainfed technologies often result in yield drop due to lack of soil moisture and mineral nutrition. Rainfed production of winter wheat using direct sowing and diversified fertilization in South Kazakhstan was studied in 2019–2020. Eight field-scale treatments using nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers were studied for biometric parameters of winter wheat. An economic profitability of the amendments used was assessed. The soil managed to accumulate productive moisture to support plants’ needs during formation of productive organs. Use of phosphorus fertilizer at direct sowing accelerated grain maturation, and the combination of phosphorus and nitrogen fertilizer lengthened the growing season. The highest production cost of 1 tonne of grain was in the plots that did not receive any amendments, and the lowest cost was in the treatment with use of plant growth stimulants together with micronutrient fertilizer. For the first time, optimization of the soil nutritional regime with consideration of the biological and phenological demands allowed for the balance of the plant nutrition and cost efficiency of grain production with direct sowing of winter wheat in dry conditions in South Kazakhstan.
To meet the requirements of California's Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, there is a critical need for crop production strategies with less reliance on irrigation from surface and groundwater sources. One strategy for improving agricultural water use efficiency is reducing tillage and maintaining residues on the soil surface. We evaluated high residue no-till versus standard tillage in the San Joaquin Valley with and without cover crops on the yields of two crops, garbanzo and sorghum, for 4 years. The no-till treatment had no primary or secondary tillage. Sorghum yields were similar in no-till and standard tillage systems while no-till garbanzo yields matched or exceeded those of standard tillage, depending on the year. Cover crops had no effect on crop yields. Soil cover was highest under the no-till with cover crop system, averaging 97% versus 5% for the standard tillage without cover crop system. Our results suggest that garbanzos and sorghum can be grown under no-till practices in the San Joaquin Valley without loss of yield.