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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Variation in Soil Properties and Crop Yield Across An Eroded Prairie Landscape

Authors
item Papiernik, Sharon
item Lindstrom, Michael
item Schumacher, Joseph - SD STATE UNIV.
item Farenhorst, Annemieke - UNIV. OF MANITOBA
item Stephans, Kristian - UNIV. OF MANITOBA
item Schumacher, Thomas - SD STATE UNIV.
item Lobb, David - UNIV. OF MANITOBA

Submitted to: Journal of Soil and Water Conservation
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: September 12, 2005
Publication Date: November 1, 2005
Citation: Papiernik, S.K., Lindstrom, M.J., Schumacher, J.A., Farenhorst, A., Stephans, K.D., Schumacher, T.E., Lobb, D.A. 2005. Variation in soil properties and crop yield across an eroded prairie landscape. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. 60(6):388-395.

Interpretive Summary: Intensive tillage moves large quantities of soil, and results in the removal of topsoil from convex slope positions and soil deposition in concave positions. In these experiments, the variation in erosion estimates, surface-soil properties, and crop yield were determined in a field subject to annual moldboard plowing. In this field, tillage has exposed subsoil in the shoulder slope positions. Wheat yields in each of three years were lowest in these areas, demonstrating yield reductions of 50% or more. Conversely, wheat yields were highest in depressions, where tillage and water erosion has resulted in a net deposition of soil. These areas had a deeper topsoil layer, and the surface soils had lower pH and inorganic carbon contents. Soybean yields (measured in only one year) did not show a strong dependence on location within the landscape. These results indicate that the observed variation in crop yield in hilly landscapes may be significantly influenced by removal of topsoil through repeated intensive tillage, and point to opportunities for landscape restoration to reduce yield losses. This research provides useful information to producers and researchers who are developing and assessing precision agriculture practices and approaches to remediate eroded landscapes.

Technical Abstract: Intensive tillage moves large quantities of soil, resulting in a pattern of soil redistribution where topsoil is depleted from convex slope positions and deposited in concave positions. In these experiments, the variation in erosion estimates, chemical properties of the surface soil, and crop yield were determined in an undulating landscape subject to annual moldboard plowing. Results indicated that areas with high tillage erosion (shoulder slope positions) had high inorganic carbon contents in the surface soil due to the incorporation of calcareous subsoil material. Wheat yields in 2000, 2001, and 2003 were lowest in these areas, demonstrating yield reductions of 50% or more. Conversely, wheat yields were highest in areas in which soil translocation by tillage and water results in a net deposition of soil (depressions). These areas had a deeper A horizon, and the surface soils had higher organic carbon contents, lower pH and lower inorganic carbon contents. Soybean yields in 2002 did not show a strong dependence on location within the landscape. These results indicate that the observed variation in crop yield in undulating landscapes may be significantly influenced by removal of topsoil through repeated intensive tillage, and point to opportunities for landscape restoration to reduce yield losses.

Last Modified: 9/22/2014
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