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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Long-Term Crop Residue Dynamics in No-Till Cropping Systems Under Semi-Arid Conditions

Authors
item Cantero-Martinez, Carlos - UNIVERSITY DE LLEIDA-IRTA
item Westfall, D - COLORADO STATE UNIVERSITY
item SHERROD, LUCRETIA
item Peterson, G - COLORADO STATE UNIVERSITY

Submitted to: Journal of Soil and Water Conservation
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: December 10, 2005
Publication Date: March 1, 2006
Citation: Cantero-Martinez, C., Westfall, D.G., Sherrod, L.A., Peterson, G.A. 2006. Long-Term Crop Residue Dynamics in No-Till Cropping Systems Under Semi-Arid Conditions. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. Vol 61:2 (84-95).

Interpretive Summary: Maintaining crop residues on the soil surface is an effective wind and water erosion control practice in no-till systems in the semi-arid agricultural environment. Today there is an increased interest in C sequestration in soil and therefore residue management is a key factor in this process due to the large portion of the CO2 released by soils is from residue decomposition. The inability to maintain an adequate residue cover is a soil management limitation for soil and water conservation in these arid environments. This study examines long-term residue quantity dynamics of different cropping systems in the semi-arid environment of the western Great Plains across climate and soil gradients. A surface residue base was achieved in 4 to 5 years and changed little over time. As cropping system intensity increased the total crop residue retained on the soil surface increased as the proportion of fallow time decreased. Greater residue production and retention occurred on the toeslope soil position because these soils are deeper, have greater water holding capacity, and receive run-on water from upslope positions. Residue loss was greater during the crop production periods as compared to the fallow periods. The levels of residue present on the soil surface in our intensive no-till cropping systems were generally adequate to control erosion by wind. H

Technical Abstract: The presence of crop residue is an important component of dryland cropping systems management in the semiarid environment where soil erosion by wind is a major soil degradation process. Residue also affects precipitation capture and runoff. Long-term residue quantity dynamics of different cropping systems has not been studied in the semiarid environment of the western Great Plains. Long-term studies were conducted to determine the interaction of no-till cropping systems, soils, and climatic gradient on the production, retention, and disappearance of crop residue over a 12-year period. The cropping systems evaluated were winter wheat (Triticum aestivum)-summer fallow (WF), winter wheat-corn (Zea Mays) of sorghum (Sorghum bicolor)-summer fallow (WC/SF), winter wheat-corn/ sourghum-millet (Panicum miliaceum)-summer fallow (WC/SMF), and continuous cropping (CC). A soil surface residue base was achieved in a few years (four to five) and changed little over time. However, as cropping intensity increased the total crop residue retained on the soil surface increased as the proportion of fallow time decreased; a general trend was for residue levels to increase slowly. However, in the winter wheat-summer fallow system residue levels showed a trend to decrease after the initial base was achieved. Greater residue production and retention occurred on the toeslope soil position because these soils are deeper, have greater water holding capacity, and receive run-on water from upslope positions. Residue disappearance was less in the fallow period before corn planting compared to before wheat planting due to the greater fallow period, which included summer fallow in the wheat system. Residue loss was greater during the crop production periods as compared to the fallow periods. The levels of residue present on the soil surface in our intensive no-till cropping systems were generally adequate to control erosion by wind. However, at our high potential evapotranspiration site the residue levels were “marginal” for adequate wind erosion abatement, particularly in the winter wheat-summer fallow system. A combination of no-till management and increased cropping intensity (greater that winter wheat-summer fallow) is the key to sustainable production and soil conservation in this semiarid environment.

Last Modified: 9/10/2014
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