Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Tillage System and Crop Rotation Effects on Dryland Crop Yields and Soil Carbon in the Central Great Plains.

Authors
item Halvorson, Ardell
item Peterson, Gary - COLORADO STATE UNIV.
item Reule, Curtis

Submitted to: Agronomy Journal
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: May 20, 2002
Publication Date: December 30, 2002
Citation: Halvorson, A.D., Peterson, G.A., Reule, C.A. 2002. Tillage system and crop rotation effects on dryland crop yields and soil carbon in the central great plains. Agronomy Journal. 94:1429-1436.

Interpretive Summary: Winter wheat-fallow (WF)using conventional stubble mulch tillage (CT)is the predominant production practice in the Central Great Plains, which has resulted in high soil erosion potential and decreased soil organic carbon (SOC) content. We conducted this study from 1990 through 1994 to evaluated the effect of tillage system [no-till (NT), reduced-till (RT), CT, and bare efallow (BF)], and crop rotation [WF vs wheat-corn-fallow (WCF) and continuous corn (CC)] on: 1) winter wheat and corn yields; 2) above ground carbon (C) additions; 3) surface residue amounts at planting; and 4) SOC. Neither tillage nor crop rotation affected winter wheat yields, averaging 2930 kg/ha. Average corn grain yields for the CC (NT) and WCF (NT) rotations averaged 1980 and 3520 kg/ha, respectively. Crop residue returned to the soil in the WCF (NT) rotation was 8870 kg/ha of residue in each 3-ye cle, which is an annualized amount of 2960 kg/ha. Annualized residue return in WF averaged 2520 kg/ha, which was 15% less than WCF. Annualized corn residue returned to the soil was 3190 kg/ha for the CC rotation. At wheat planting, surface crop residues varied with year and tillage/rotation averaging WCF (5120 kg/ha)>NT (3380 kg/ha)>RT (2140 kg/ha)>CT (1420 kg/ha)>BF (50 kg/ha). Soil erosion potential was minimized with NT WCF, CC, and WF systems because of the large amounts of residue cover. Soil organic C levels in descending order in 1994 were: CCòWCFòWF(NT)=WF(RT)=WF(CT)>WF(BF). The CC treatment appeared to be accumulating more SOC than any of the rotations that included a fallow period; even more rapidly than WCF, which had a similar amount of annualized C addition. Farmers who convert to no-till and intensify their crop rotations can increased SOC and reduce soil erosion potential.

Technical Abstract: Winter wheat (Triticum aestivum)-fallow (WF)using conventional stubble mulch tillage (CT) is the predominant production practice in the Central Great Plains and has resulted in high erosion potential and decreased soil organic carbon (SOC) contents. This study, conducted from 1990 through 1994, evaluated the effect of tillage system [no-till (NT), reduced-till (RT), CT, and bare fallow (BF)], and crop rotation [WF vs wheat-corn (Zea mays L.)-fallow (WCF) and continuous corn (CC)] on: 1)winter wheat and corn yields; 2)above ground carbon (C) additions; 3)surface residue amounts at planting; and 4)SOC. Neither tillage nor crop rotation affected winter wheat yields, averaging 2930 kg/ha. Corn grain yields for the CC and WCF rotations averaged 1980 and 3520 kg/ha, respectively. Crop residue returned to the soil in the WCF rotation was 8870 kg/ha of residue in each 3-year cycle, which is an annualized amount of 2960 kg/ha. Annualized residue return in WF averaged 2520 kg ha-1, which was 15% less than WCF. Annualized corn residue returned to the soil was 3190 kg/ha for the CC rotation. At wheat planting, surface crop residues varied with year and tillage/rotation averaging WCF (5120 kg/ha)>NT (3380 kg/ha)>RT (2140 kg/ha)>CT (1420 kg/ha)>BF (50 kg/ha). Soil erosion potential was minimized with NT WCF, CC, and WF systems because of the large amounts of residue cover. Soil organic C levels in descending order in 1994 were: CCòWCFòWF(NT)=WF(RT)= WF(CT)>WF(BF). Although not statistically significant, the CC treatment appeared to be accumulating more SOC than any of the rotations that included a fallow period; even more rapidly than WCF, which had a similar amount of annualized C addition. Reduced tillage and intensified cropping increased SOC and reduced soil erosion potential.

Last Modified: 9/2/2014
Footer Content Back to Top of Page