ECOLOGICALLY-BASED SOIL AND CROP MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS FOR SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE
Location: North Central Agricultural Research Laboratory
Title: Tillage Management and Previous Crop Effects on Soil Physical Properties, Maize Grain Yield, and Seed Composition
Submitted to: Recent Research Developments in Soil Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: November 3, 2006
Publication Date: April 20, 2007
Citation: Riedell, W.E., Osborne, S.L., Pikul Jr, J.L. 2007. Tillage Management and Previous Crop Effects on Soil Physical Properties, Maize Grain Yield, and Seed Composition. Recent Research Developments in Soil Science, 2(2007):1-12.
Interpretive Summary: Cropping systems research conducted in the northern US maize belt suggests that the adaptation of no-till soil management and the use of diverse crop sequences improves soil resource conservation, soil health, crop yield, and interrupts pest cycles. While these attributes make no-till soil management and more diverse crop sequences attractive possibilities, producers that adopt both of these soil and crop management practices face two important constraints: 1) delayed emergence and poor early growth of maize under no-till soil management, and 2) unfavorable soil physical properties limit crop root growth under no-till soil management. Both of these may cause crop yield reductions. Because of the potential positive attributes with the use of diverse crop rotations and no-till soil management on crop productivity and soil resource conservation, research to understand the constraints to widespread adoption of these crop and management practices is warranted. Thus, the objectives of the research reported here were to characterize soil physical properties, maize yield and seed composition under tilled and no-till soil management, and to investigate the potential role of the previous crop on these parameters. We found that higher bulk density and penetrometer resistance levels under no-till soil management, along with cool soil conditions that typically occur in the spring in the northern US maize belt, could work together to reduce maize yield under no-till. Our data also suggest that grain yield reduction was exacerbated in maize grown following winter wheat. These results provide a basis for why no-till soil management and increased crop diversity are not quickly gaining popularity with producers in the northern US maize belt. It is likely that additional research and development into residue management systems or strip tillage systems will be needed to develop crop and soil management systems that address this problem.
Maize (Zea mays L.) grown in rotation with high residue crops generally has lower grain yield under no-till than under tilled soil management in the northern US maize belt. Hence, the research objectives were to further characterize soil physical properties, maize grain yield, and seed composition under tilled and no-till soil management following soybean (Glycine max L.) or winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.). The two year field study was conducted on a Barnes sandy clay loam soil (fine-loamy, mixed, superactive, frigid Calcic Hapludoll) in eastern South Dakota USA. Research plots were managed under no-till starting in 1996. Tillage treatments (fall chisel plow prior to winter wheat, fall chisel plow plus spring disk-harrow prior to maize and soybean, or no-till) were started in 2001. Tillage and previous crop treatments were arranged in a completely randomized block design with 4 replications. Soil temperatures (30 cm depth) in tilled plots after winter wheat were dramatically warmer than no-till plots in June and again in August of the 2004 growing season. In 2003, soil temperatures were very similar across tillage treatments. Soil bulk density (0 to 10 cm depth) and soil penetration resistance (0 to 7 cm depth) were much greater under no-till soil management than under tilled conditions when measured in mid-June (V6 leaf development stage). While tillage treatment affected maize seed oil concentration (4.0% in tilled, 4.3% in no-till), there were no significant previous crop or interaction effects on seed oil or protein concentration. In the warmer and drier year (2003), maize grain yield under tilled conditions was 8.2 Mg per ha compared with 8.7 Mg per ha under no-till. In the cooler and wetter year (2004), yields were 9.4 Mg per ha under tilled soil management and 7.4 Mg per ha under no-till. The no-till soil management treatment following winter wheat had 27% lower maize grain yield than the tilled treatments and the no-till following soybeans. We conclude that greater bulk density and penetration resistance levels under no-till soil management, along with cool soil conditions that typically occur in the spring in the northern US maize belt, reduced maize yield under no-till soil management.