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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Components of Surface Soil Structure under Conventional and No Tillage in Northwestern Canada

Authors
item Arshad, M - AGRI. & AGRI-FOOD CANADA
item Franzluebbers, Alan
item Azooz, R - AGRI. & AGRI-FOOD CANADA

Submitted to: Soil & Tillage Research
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: October 4, 1999
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Improvement in soil quality properties to maintain high production and reduce negative environmental impacts is necessary for alternative crop production strategies to become socially acceptable and viable in the long-term. No tillage management of the predominantly small grain region of western Canada has the potential to curb soil erosion and increase profitability. An understanding of the direct effects of no tillage on soil properties is necessary to evaluate its potential for sustained long-term productivity. We have compiled data collected from two sites in northern British Columbia to ascertain the long-term effects of conventional and no tillage on soil components thought to be important in surface soil structural improvement. Improvement of total soil organic carbon under no tillage compared with conventional tillage occurred only near the soil surface. Water infiltration improved under no tillage compared with conventional tillage as a result of structural improvements associated with surface residue accumulation and lack of soil disturbance. Our data indicate that no tillage is a viable management strategy to improve soil quality properties in the cold, semiarid region of western Canada.

Technical Abstract: An understanding of the direct effects of no tillage (NT) on soil properties is necessary to evaluate its potential for sustained long-term productivity. We compiled data collected from two sites in northern British Columbia to ascertain the long-term effects of conventional tillage (CT) and NT on soil components thought to be important in surface soil structural improvement. Soil water retention improved under NT compared with CT without dramatically altering bulk density due to redistribution of pore size classes into more small pores and less large pores. Improvement of total soil organic C under NT compared with CT occurred only near the soil surface. Water-stable aggregation improved under NT compared with CT with more soil organic C sequestered within macroaggregates that helped to stabilize these aggregates. Barley yield improved with NT compared with CT in years of low rainfall as a result of improvements in soil water retention and transmission that may have provided a better environment for root development. No tillage management could lead to high production, minimal negative environmental impacts, and a socially-acceptable farming system.

Last Modified: 10/22/2014
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