Fallow Management Practices for Wheat Production in the Central Great Plains
Information comparing reduced and no-till fallow management practices to conventional stubble mulch fallow for wheat production in a wheat-fallow rotation in the semiarid Central Great Plains is limited. A 12-yr study conducted at the Central Great Plains Research Station near Akron, CO evaluated the following seven soil management practices for their effectiveness for promoting soil water storage, reducing soil erosion potential, maintaining soil nutrient availability, and increasing winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) production and quality: (i) conventional stubble mulch tillage; three practices where weed control was achieved with herbicides except for (ii) one tillage operation performed as needed for weed control in early spring, (iii) immediately after harvest, and (iv) late fall (October); (v) chemical weed control except for one tillage after harvest and one tillage the following summer; (vi) chemical weed control with three tillage operations just prior to wheat seeding; (vii) and no-till, all weed control achieved with herbicides. Nitrogen fertilizer as urea-ammonium nitrate (UAN) was applied to all practices at the end of each fallow period at 56 kg ha−1. The soil at the research site is a montmorillonitic, mesic Aridic Paleustoll. No-till consistently produced 10% more grain, had 9% higher soil water storage efficiency, and 7% fewer erodible-sized soil particles than conventional tillage. The NO3-N availability was comparable for all practices. The reduced-tillage practices fell between the no-till and conventional tillage extremes and varied with year-to-year climatic differences.
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