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Title: Drainage characteristics of a Southern Piedmont soil following six years of conventionally tilled or no-till cropping systems

Author
item Endale, Dinku
item Radcliffe, D.
item Steiner, Jean
item Cabrera, M.

Submitted to: American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/11/2002
Publication Date: 10/30/2001
Citation: Endale, D.M., Radcliffe, D.E., Steiner, J.L., Cabrera, M.L. 2001. Drainage characteristics of a Southern Piedmont soil following six years of conventionally tilled or no-till cropping systems. American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers. 45(5):1423-1432.

Interpretive Summary: Tillage type has a profound effect on surface and subsurface soil properties that influence water movement into and through soils. Water movement in turn influences chemical movement into subsurface water bodies. In this study, we compared 12 months of drainage characteristics from a Cecil sandy loam near Watkinsville, GA, following a combined six years of a corn/rye and a cotton/rye cropping system under no-till or conventionally tilled treatments. No-till exhibited significantly higher total drainage amount as well as mean and peak drainage rates compared to conventional tillage treatments. Drainage started earlier, and receded and lasted longer from no-till than from conventional tillage. Water flow through the soil profile appeared to follow a shorter path in no-till than conventional tillage. The analysis indicates that no-till enhanced water movement deep into the soil increasing the importance of managing nutrients and chemicals in these systems avoid losses through deep drainage.

Technical Abstract: Site specific soil water movement research is needed in order to fully understand chemical movement into subsurface water bodies. Water flow paths depend on soil, climate, topography and management practices. In this study, we compared 12 months of subsurface drainage hydrographs from a Southern Piedmont Cecil sandy loam following a combined six years of a corn/rye and a cotton/rye cropping system under no-till or conventionally tilled treatments. No-till exhibited significantly higher (P < 0.05) mean and peak drainage rates, drainage in the rising and recession part of the hydrographs, as well as total drainage amount, compared to conventional tillage treatments. Drainage started earlier, and receded and lasted longer from no-till than from conventional tillage. The recession time constant of the hydrographs, which can be used as an index of the structural macropore development in the soil above the water table, was significantly less in the no-till than conventional tillage indicating less tortuous water flow paths in no-till. The analysis indicates that no- till enhanced water movement into deeper profiles in a Cecil sandy loam increasing the importance of managing nutrients and chemicals in these systems to avoid losses through deep drainage.