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ARS Home » Plains Area » Bushland, Texas » Conservation and Production Research Laboratory » Soil and Water Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #355077

Research Project: Precipitation and Irrigation Management to Optimize Profits from Crop Production

Location: Soil and Water Management Research

Title: Long term tillage on yield and water use of grain sorghum and winter wheat

item SCHLEGEL, ALAN - Kansas State University
item ASSEFA, YARED - Kansas State University
item HAAG, LUCAS - Kansas State University
item THOMPSON, CURTIS - Kansas State University
item STONE, LOYD - Kansas State University

Submitted to: Agronomy Journal
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/12/2017
Publication Date: 1/4/2018
Citation: Schlegel, A.J., Assefa, Y., Haag, L.A., Thompson, C.R., Stone, L.R. 2018. Long term tillage on yield and water use of grain sorghum and winter wheat. Agronomy Journal. 110:269-280.

Interpretive Summary: As available water for irrigation from the Ogallala Aquifer decreases, more land owners are likely to farm more dryland (rain-fed) acres. Tillage is an important cropping practice that affects yield, profitability, and environmental quality, especially with dryland farming. However, the responses of crops to different tillage practices are site specific and vary with crop rotations. Therefore, scientists from Kansas State University in the ARS led Ogallala Aquifer Program conducted a long term investigation (26 years) of the effects of different tillage practices on a dryland wheat-grain sorghum-fallow rotation in western Kansas. On average, there was a 31% wheat yield advantage for no till over stubble mulch tillage, and 120% sorghum yield advantage for no till over stubble mulched. Greater yields were associated with more available soil water at planting.

Technical Abstract: Tillage is among crop management factors that affect yield, profitability, and environmental quality. The objective of our study was to evaluate the effect of three long-term tillage intensities; conventional tillage (CT), reduced tillage (RT), and notill (NT), on winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) and grain sorghum (Sorghum bicolor L.) yield, available soil water (ASW), and water productivity. The study was conducted near Tribune, KS, from 1991 through 2015 in a wheat–sorghum–fallow (WSF) rotation. The CT plots were tilled (primarily with a sweep plow), on average, four to five times per fallow season; NT plots used herbicides for weed control during fallow. The RT plots used a combination of herbicides and tillage for weed control during fallow prior to both crops for years 1991 to 2000; and, for the years 2001 to 2015, the RT system was NT before sorghum planting(short-term NT) and CT before wheat planting. On average, there was a 31% wheat yield advantage for NT over CT, 16% NT over RT, and 12% RT over CT. On average, there was a 120% sorghum yield advantage for NT over CT, 41% NT over RT, and 55% RT over CT. Sorghum yields were 80% greater for continuous NT compared with short-term NT (2001–2015 RT). The average of profile ASW at planting was less for CT compared with NT and RT. There was a significant yield and water productivity benefit in the order NT > RT > CT for both crops, but greater for sorghum than wheat.