Skip to main content
ARS Home » Plains Area » Sidney, Montana » Northern Plains Agricultural Research Laboratory » Agricultural Systems Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #371518

Research Project: Ecologically-Sound Pest, Water and Soil Management Practices for Northern Great Plains Cropping Systems

Location: Agricultural Systems Research

Title: Soil water and crop water use with crop rotations and cultural practices

item Sainju, Upendra
item LENSSEN, ANDREW - Iowa State University
item Allen, Brett
item Jabro, Jalal "jay"
item Stevens, William - Bart
item Iversen, William - Bill

Submitted to: Agronomy Journal
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/15/2020
Publication Date: 7/25/2020
Publication URL:
Citation: Sainju, U.M., Lenssen, A.W., Allen, B.L., Jabro, J.D., Stevens, W.B., Iversen, W.M. 2020. Soil water and water-use efficiency with diversified crop rotations and cultural practices. Agronomy Journal. 112(5):3306-3321.

Interpretive Summary: Management practices are needed to capture precipitation, enhance soil water content and crop water use to improve dryland crop yields in the semiarid northern Great Plains. Researchers in ARS, Sidney, MT in collaboration with Iowa State University have found that stacked rotation of durum with pea and flax reduced soil water content and crop yields compared to alternate-year rotation. In contrast, improved cultural practice that included a combination of no-tillage, higher seed rate, banded nitrogen fertilization, and tall stubble height increased soil water and crop yields compared to the traditional practice that included a combination of conventional tillage, recommended seed rate, broadcast nitrogen fertilization, and short stubble height. Producers can enhance soil water storage, crop water use, and crop yields by adapting alternate-year crop rotation and the improved cultural practice.

Technical Abstract: Performance of dryland cropping systems vary with soil water storage. Limited and erratic precipitation in arid and semiarid regions call for adequate soil water storage and efficient water use for successful crop production using improved management strategies. Our objective was to examine soil water storage, crop yield, and water-use efficiency (WUE) with diversified crop rotations and cultural practices from 2005 to 2010 in the northern Great Plains. Crop rotations included durum (Triticum turgidum L.)-durum-canola (Brassica napus L.)-pea (Pisum sativum L.) (DDCP), durum-durum-flax (Linum usitatissimum L.)-pea (DDFP), durum-canola-durum-pea (DCDP), durum-flax-durum-pea (DFDP). A continuous durum (CD) was also included for comparison. Cultural practices were traditional (a combination of conventional tillage, recommended seeding rate, broadcast N fertilization, and reduced stubble height) and improved (a combination of no-tillage, increased seeding rate, banded N fertilization, and increased stubble height). Preplant and postharvest soil water contents were 19 to 39 mm lower with DDFP than other crop rotations. Preplant soil water was 21 to 39 mm greater with the improved than the traditional cultural practice in 3 out of 6 yr. Annualized grain yield was 207 to 370 kg ha-1 lower with DDFP than CD and DCDP. Water use and WUE were not affected by treatments. Preplant and postharvest soil water, water use, grain yield, and WUE for each crop in the rotation varied with treatments and years. Alternate-year of durum with canola and flax and continuous durum can enhance dryland soil water storage and crop yield compared to other rotations.