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Compaction and sowing date change soil physical properties and crop yield in a loamy temperate soil

Obour, Peter Bilson, Kolberg, Dorothee, Lamandé, Mathieu, Børresen, Trond, Edwards, Gareth, Sørensen, Claus G., Munkholm, Lars J.
Soil & tillage research 2018 v.184 pp. 153-163
air, crop yield, farmers, field experimentation, grain crops, growing season, loam soils, permeability, plant establishment, porosity, seedbeds, small cereal grains, soil density, soil penetration resistance, soil pore system, soil quality, soil water, sowing date, spring, temperate soils, tensile strength, tillage, tractors, water content, Norway
Timing of tillage operations is of utmost importance in arable farming because tillage performed under inappropriate soil water conditions results in soil structural damage and creation of undesirable seedbeds for crop establishment and growth. In a field experiment on a loamy soil in Ås, Norway, we investigated the effect of compaction and sowing dates on (i) seedbed physical properties, (ii) crop yield, and (iii) the range of water contents for tillage. The experiment was established in 2014 and the same experimental treatments were repeated in 2015, 2016 and 2017. The sowing dates included early (A1), normal/timely (A2) and late (A3) sowing dates. The compaction treatments applied each year were done wheel-by-wheel by a MF 4225 tractor weighing 4.5 Mg with a single pass (B1) and compared with a control treatment (B0). This study reported soil physical properties for only 2016 and small grain cereal yield for the four years. The soil pore characteristics determined were soil bulk density (ρb), volumetric water content (θ), air-filled porosity (εa), air permeability (ka) and pore organization indices (PO1= ka/εa and PO2= ka/εa2); strength properties measured were tensile strength (Y), soil penetration resistance (PR), degree of soil fragmentation by drop-shatter test, and water contents for tillage by calculating the range of water content for tillage (ΔθRANGE). The interaction of compaction with sowing date, generally affected soil pore characteristics, particularly at 1–5 cm depth. The A1 treatment significantly affected the strength characteristics of seedbed by decreasing soil friability and increasing Y at 1–10 cm depth, and PR down to 27 cm depth. The A3 treatment decreased yield of spring-sown small grain cereal crops, but this may be ascribed to a shorter growing season rather than an influence of soil physical properties. The A1 and A3 decreased the range of water contents for tillage compared to the A2, although the difference was not significant at any of the depths studied. Findings of the study have practical implications for cropping regimes in colder climates where farmers can be faced with a short growing period by showing that cultivation in wet soil conditions such as early spring can adversely affect seedbed physical properties and soil workability for subsequent tillage operations.