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Agronomy Journal Abstract - Soil Tillage, Conservation & Management

Root Growth of Barley as Affected by Tillage Systems and Nitrogen Fertilization in a Semiarid Mediterranean Agroecosystem


This article in AJ

  1. Vol. 103 No. 4, p. 1270-1275
    Received: Jan 26, 2011

    * Corresponding author(s): pacomorell@yahoo.com
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  1. F. J. Morell *a,
  2. C. Cantero-Martíneza,
  3. J. Álvaro-Fuentesb and
  4. J. Lampurlanésc
  1. a Departamento de Producción Vegetal y Ciencia Forestal, Universitat de Lleida, Rovira Roure 191, 25198 Lleida, Spain
    b Departamento de Suelo y Agua. Estación Experimental de Aula Dei, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), POB 13034, 50080 Zaragoza, Spain
    c Departamento de Ingeniería Agroforestal, Universitat de Lleida, Rovira Roure 191, 25198 Lleida, Spain


Conservation tillage systems are being widely adopted in the Mediterranean region. A long-term field experiment was established in 1996 comparing three N fertilization levels (zero, 0 kg ha−1; medium, 60 kg ha−1; and high, 120 kg ha−1), under three tillage systems (conventional tillage, CT; minimum tillage, MT; and no-tillage, NT) in a semiarid Mediterranean agroecosystem annually cropped with winter barley (Hordeum vulgare, L., cultivar Hispanic), to study the response of root growth. During four consecutive growing seasons, from 2005 to 2009, root length density (RLD) and soil water content were evaluated. Penetration resistance (PR) and soil bulk density were only evaluated in the fourth and last year of this experiment. In dry years, root growth was similar under NT and MT systems but highly reduced under CT due to reduced water availability, which, in the surface 25 cm of soil was 7% and 18% lower than under MT and NT systems, respectively. However, in a wet year (i.e., 2009), RLD was double under CT than under NT due to reduced soil strength. PR at 5 to 15 cm soil depth under NT was 1MPa greater than under MT or CT. Root growth was not affected by N fertilization, in contrast to the response of grain yield that showed a significant interaction between N fertilization and tillage system. In spite of moderate soil compaction, which may reduce root growth in wet years, long-term NT adoption does not reduce grain yields for monoculture of barley under semiarid Mediterranean conditions.

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