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Effect of preceding crop on the agronomic and economic performance of durum wheat in the transition from conventional to reduced tillage

Ercoli, Laura, Masoni, Alessandro, Mariotti, Marco, Pampana, Silvia, Pellegrino, Elisa, Arduini, Iduna
European journal of agronomy 2017 v.82 pp. 125-133
Helianthus annuus, alfalfa, conventional tillage, corn, crops, discing, durum wheat, economic performance, grain yield, harrowing, nitrogen, plowing, profitability, reduced tillage, seeds, soil, weeds, yield components
Preceding crop greatly affects the agronomic and economic performance of durum wheat, but its interaction with tillage intensity was scarcely investigated at the early transition from conventional to reduced tillage. This work was aimed at studying how preceding crop determines the performance of durum wheat during the early transition from conventional to reduced tillage. To this end, the effect of four preceding crops (sunflower, durum wheat, alfalfa and maize) in interaction with two tillage systems without inversion (RT1 – chisel ploughing, disking twice, and harrowing and RT2 – disking twice and harrowing) and a conventional tillage (CT – mouldboard ploughing, disking twice, and harrowing) was studied on durum wheat in two years of cultivation. The effect of preceding crop on grain yield and yield components of durum wheat was different depending on tillage intensity, and this effect varied depending on the year of cultivation. Grain yield increased by 1.1–4.2tha−1 with the increase of the intensity of tillage in both years and all preceding crops, with the only exception of wheat crop following sunflower in 2009–2010 and following maize in 2010–2011. RT2 decreased wheat grain yield when compared with RT1 only with alfalfa as preceding crop. Differences in grain yield among tillage systems and crops preceding wheat in both years were mainly due to variations of mean kernel weight and number of spikes per unit area. The profitability of durum wheat varied according to the year of cultivation, the preceding crop and the tillage system. Overall, in both years profitability was lowest and negative following wheat under reduced tillage system, while it was highest and positive following alfalfa under CT. Reduced growth of durum wheat with reduced tillage systems was mainly consequence of weeds and volunteers plants development and nitrogen availability in soil resulting from nutrient immobilization. It can be concluded that potential yield penalties in durum wheat in the transition from conventional to reduced tillage can be alleviated by an appropriate selection of preceding crops.