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ARS Home » Plains Area » Sidney, Montana » Northern Plains Agricultural Research Laboratory » Agricultural Systems Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #386128

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

Location: Agricultural Systems Research

Title: The benefits of the no-till system on soil health and crop yields in dryland cropping systems

Author
item Sainju, Upendra

Submitted to: Soil Research
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/21/2021
Publication Date: 12/9/2021
Citation: Sainju, U.M. 2021. The benefits of the no-till system on soil health and crop yields in dryland cropping systems. Soil Research. https://doi.org/10.1071/SR21188.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1071/SR21188

Interpretive Summary: No-till system has been used to control soil erosion and nutrient losses, but it has not been extensively evaluated on soil health and long-term crop yields compared to conventional till system in dryland cropping systems. ARS scientist in Sidney, MT reported that no-till enhanced 22, but reduced 9 out of 66 soil physical, chemical, biological, and biochemical properties compared to conventional till at two long-term dryland farming sites in eastern Montana. Mean crop yields across 14 to 36 years were similar to or greater with no-till than conventional till. No-till can enhance long-term soil health and sustain crop yields compared to conventional till under dryland cropping systems in the semiarid northern Great Plains.

Technical Abstract: No-till (NT) systems have been employed to reduce soil erosion and nutrient losses and sustain crop yields, but their extensive evaluations on soil health and long-term crop yields are lacking. The effect of NT compared to conventional till (CT) was evaluated on 66 soil physical, chemical, biological, and biochemical properties and long-term crop yields in two dryland farming sites (Froid and Sidney, Montana) in the northern Great Plains, USA. Treatments were CT and NT under continuous spring wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) in Froid for 36 yr, and CT and NT under barley (Hordeum vulgaris L.)/spring wheat-fallow rotation in Sidney for 14 yr. The NT increased dry soil stability index, average slake aggregate, and total shrinkage by 14 to 61%, but reduced saturated hydraulic conductivity by 16 to 24% compared to CT. Soil pH, and Al, Ba, Co, Cu, and Fe concentrations were 7 to 28% greater, but electrical conductivity, Ni and Zn concentrations, and Na-absorption ratio were 9 to 23% lower with NT than CT. Similarly, NH4-N concentration, potential C and N mineralization, phospholipid-derived fatty acid (PLFA), and arysulfatase were 9 to 35% greater, but water-extractable N and NO3-N concentration were 7 to 31% lower with NT than CT. Mean crop yield across years were similar to or 8% greater with NT than CT. Results suggest that NT can enhance overall soil health and sustain dryland crop yields compared to CT in the semiarid northern Great Plains, USA.