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Tillage and residue management practices affect soil biological indicators in a rice–wheat cropping system in north‐western India

Saikia, Rituparna, Sharma, Sandeep, Thind, Harmit Singh, Singh, Yadvinder
Soil use and management 2020 v.36 no.1 pp. 157-172
Oryza sativa, Sesbania, Triticum aestivum, agricultural productivity, biochemical pathways, conventional tillage, crop residue management, cropping systems, ecosystem services, flowering, green manures, indicator species, microbial carbon, mineralization, mulches, no-tillage, principal component analysis, rice, soil, soil biota, soil microorganisms, soil organic carbon, soil respiration, sowing, temporal variation, tillering, wheat, wheat straw, India
Agricultural productivity relies on a wide range of ecosystem services provided by the soil biota. Sustainable management practices, such as tillage and residue management, can influence structure and function of the soil microbiota, with direct consequences for the associated ecosystem services. Although there is increasing evidence that different tillage regimes alter the soil biological indices, we only have a limited understanding of their temporal changes in a rice (Oryza sativa L.)–wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) cropping system. We evaluated the effects of combinations of tillage, crop residue management and green manuring on soil biological indicators after 5 years of the practising rice–wheat system (RWS). Four main plot treatments in rice included the following: (a) PTRW₀, puddled transplanted rice with no wheat straw retained; (b) PTRW₂₅, puddled transplanted rice with 25% anchored wheat stubbles retained; (c) PTRW₀ + Sesbania aculeate L. green manure (GM); and (d) PTRW₂₅+GM, puddled transplanted rice with 25% anchored wheat stubbles retained+ GM. There were three subplot treatments in the subsequent wheat crop: (a) CTWR₀, conventional tillage wheat with rice residue removed; (b) ZTWR₀, zero tillage wheat with rice residue removed; and (c) ZTWR₁₀₀, ZTW with 100% rice residue retained as mulch. The PTRW₂₅+GM treatment, followed by ZTWR₁₀₀, significantly increased soil microbial biomass carbon, basal soil respiration, microbial quotient and mineralization quotient measured during wheat‐growing season. These biological indicators were higher at vigorous vegetative wheat growth stage than at flowering stage and decreased at maturity. The principal component analysis of the assayed variables showed that all the variables significantly contributed to the variability in parameters examined and were more related to maximum tillering stage of wheat growth than to maturity or at sowing of wheat. Three highly effective biological indicators were microbial biomass carbon, microbial quotient and mineralization quotient, which responded significantly to changes in tillage and residue management practices in the RWS. We conclude that crop residues and green manure have significant to improve soil biochemical processes by improving soil organic carbon and soil biological indicators in rice–wheat cropping system.