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Crop yields under no-till farming in China: A meta-analysis

Zhao, Xin, Liu, Sheng-Li, Pu, Chao, Zhang, Xiang-Qian, Xue, Jian-Fu, Ren, Yong-Xiang, Zhao, Xiu-Ling, Chen, Fu, Lal, Rattan, Zhang, Hai-Lin
European journal of agronomy 2017 v.84 pp. 67-75
crop yield, crops, food security, meta-analysis, nitrogen, nitrogen fertilizers, no-tillage, plows, potassium, soil quality, temperature, China
No-till (NT) farming is popular globally, however, the effects on crop yields remain debatable. A meta-analysis was conducted on crop yield responses to NT in China based on 1006 comparisons from 164 studies. Results showed that a decrease of 2.1±1.8% on crop yield was observed under NT with residue removed (NT0) compared with that under plow tillage with residue removed (PT0), but the decreases can be diminished to 1.9±1.0% when residue retention was combined with both the two tillage practices. On the contrary, NT with residue retention (NTR) may significantly increase crop yields by 4.6±1.3% compared with that under PT0 (P<0.05). Along with improvements in crop yields, increases in soil organic carbon (SOC) by 10.2±7.2%, available nitrogen (N) by 9.4±5.4%, available potassium by 10.5±8.8%, and water storage by ∼9.3±2.4% was observed under NTR compared with PT0, indicating that improvements in soil quality could benefit crop productivity under NTR. Categorically, results on meta-analysis and regression indicated large variations in crop yields under NTR because of differences in crop species, temperature and precipitation, antecedent SOC level, N fertilizer input, duration of adoption, and with or without residue retention. For example, crop yields significantly increased with increase in duration (P<0.0001) under NTR, by 21.3% after 10 years of continuous NTR compared with PT0. Adoption of NTR under appropriate site-specific conditions can advance China’s food security, improve yield stability and alleviate soil-related constraints.