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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: SUSTAINING RURAL ECONOMIES THROUGH NEW WATER MANAGEMENT TECHNOLOGIES

Location: Soil and Water Management Research

Title: Tillage and cattle grazing effects on soil properties and grain yields in a dryland wheat-sorghum-fallow rotation

Authors
item Baumhardt, Roland
item Schwartz, Robert
item Macdonald, Jim -
item Tolk, Judy

Submitted to: Agronomy Journal
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: January 20, 2011
Publication Date: May 2, 2011
Citation: Baumhardt, R.L., Schwartz, R.C., MacDonald, J.C., Tolk, J.A. 2011. Tillage and cattle grazing effects on soil properties and grain yields in a dryland wheat-sorghum-fallow rotation. Agronomy Journal. 103(3):914-922

Interpretive Summary: Dryland wheat and grain sorghum are grown in a three-year wheat-sorghum-fallow (WSF) rotation in the U.S. Southern High Plains. Adding cattle-grazing to the WSF rotation can increase profit when using stubble-mulch (SM) tillage to control weeds and reverse soil compaction. No-tillage (NT) increases soil water stored during fallow and crop yields, but may be compacted by grazing. Our objectives were to quantify cattle grazing and tillage effects on the growth and yield of the grazed wheat and later on sorghum crops. We established grazed and ungrazed plots with all WSF rotation phases on a gently sloping Pullman clay loam at the USDA-ARS Conservation and Production Research Laboratory, Bushland, Texas. In 2004, NT or SM tillage were added as split-plots in grazing main plots of a randomized complete block design. Cattle gain, soil water content, and the growth and yield of wheat and grain sorghum were compared from 2005 to 2009. Dryland wheat forage and sorghum stover was grazed an average of 29 days by cattle stocked at 1.8 Mg ha**-1 with a total mean gain of 147 kg ha**-1. Soil water at wheat and sorghum planting or stored during fallow increased for NT, but was unaffected by grazing until 2008 when these parameters were depressed in grazed NT plots. Crop yield and growth factors benefited from NT except for reductions in the grazed NT plots.

Technical Abstract: Wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) and grain sorghum [Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench] are grown in a dryland three-year wheat-sorghum-fallow (WSF) rotation in the U.S. Southern High Plains. Cattle- grazing has been integrated into the WSF cropping system as a means to intensify dryland production when using stubble-mulch (SM) tillage residue management for weed control and to counteract soil compaction by cattle. No-till (NT) residue management increases soil water storage during fallow and the subsequent dryland crop yields, but cumulative grazing induced soil compaction effects are unknown. Our objectives were to quantify the effects of cattle grazing and tillage practices on the growth and yield of grazed winter wheat and the subsequent, ungrazed, sorghum crop. At the USDA-ARS Conservation and Production Research Laboratory, Bushland, Texas, (35 deg 11’ N, 102 deg 5’ W) we established plots with all WSF rotation phases in triplicate ungrazed and grazed paddocks beginning in 1999 on a gently sloping Pullman silty clay loam (fine, mixed, superactive, thermic Torrertic Paleustoll) using SM tillage. During spring 2004, NT or SM tillage practices were superimposed as sub-plots within grazing main plots. Cattle gain, fallow soil water storage, and the growth and yield of wheat and grain sorghum were compared from 2005 to 2009 according to a split plot - randomized complete block design. Dryland wheat and sorghum stover was grazed an average of 29 days by cattle stocked at 1.8 Mg ha**-1 with a total mean gain of 147 kg ha**-1. Soil water at wheat and sorghum planting or stored during fallow increased for NT compared with SM, but was unaffected by grazing until 2008 when these parameters were limited in grazed NT plots. For both crops, yield and growth factors similarly benefited from NT or experienced reductions due to the NT grazing combination.

Last Modified: 9/21/2014
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