Effects of long-term (42 years) tillage sequence on soil chemical characteristics in a dryland farming system

Tshuma, Flackson ; Rayns, Francis ; Labuschagne, Johan ; Bennett, James ; Swanepoel, Pieter Andreas (2021)

CITATION: Tshuma, F., et al. 2021. Effects of long-term (42 years) tillage sequence on soil chemical characteristics in a dryland farming system. Soil and Tillage Research, 212:105064, doi:10.1016/j.still.2021.105064.

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Article

No-tillage can improve soil quality but can also increase the stratification of soil chemical parameters. Nutrient uptake by crops might be limited when nutrients are stratified, especially in semi-arid or Mediterranean regions. To reduce stratification, infrequent tillage could be considered. However, there is a paucity of information on the effects of long-term infrequent tillage on the stratification of soil chemical parameters. This study aimed to assess the effects of long-term infrequent tillage on the stratification of selected soil chemical parameters to a depth of 300 mm. The research was conducted on a long-term (42 years) research site at Langgewens Research Farm in South Africa. Seven tillage treatments were investigated: continuous mouldboard ploughing to a depth of 200 mm, tine-tillage to 150 mm, shallow tine-tillage to 75 mm, no-tillage, shallow tine-tillage every second year in rotation with no-tillage, shallow tine-tillage every third year in rotation with no-tillage and shallow tine-tillage every fourth year in rotation with no-tillage. Tillage treatments had differential effects on the distribution of soil chemical parameters. The mouldboard plough prevented stratification of most soil chemical parameters, such as soil acidity, soil organic carbon (SOC), extractable P, exchangeable Ca and Mg and cation exchange capacity (CEC). However, mouldboard ploughing also led to significantly lower SOC stocks and extractable P stocks. The SOC stocks and extractable P stocks of the no-tillage treatment were not significantly different from those of the infrequent tillage treatments. Overall, the infrequent tillage treatments were no better (P > 0.05) than the no-tillage treatment as infrequent tillage could not effectively ameliorate the stratification of most soil chemical parameters and did not increase the stocks and stratification ratios of SOC and extractable P.

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