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Agronomy Journal Abstract -

Banded Wetting Agent and Compaction Improve Barley Production on a Water-Repellent Sand


This article in AJ

  1. Vol. 91 No. 3, p. 463-467
    Received: Jan 28, 1998

    * Corresponding author(s): crabtree@muresk.curtin.edu.au
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  1. William L. Crabtree* and
  2. Robert J. Gilkes
  1. W estern Australian No-Tillage Farmers Association, 12 Fermoy Ave, Northam, W.A. 6401, Australia;
    S oil Science and Plant Nutrition, Faculty of Agriculture, Univ. of Western Australia, Nedlands, W.A. 6009, Australia.



Large areas of cropland in Western Australia exhibit severe annual water repellency. Crop establishment is frustrated by the staggered emergence of plants, despite significant amounts of rain falling prior to the desired time of seeding. Three techniques were used to investigate improvements in barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) establishment on a water-repellent sand: (i) spraying various rates of banded (2 cm wide) wetting agent while furrow seeding with press wheels, (ii) seed placement either in a furrow or in the side of a ridge, and (iii) compaction with press wheels or a Flexi-Coil land packer. The application of wetting agent increased seedling emergence from 110 to 170 plants m−2, dry matter production from 4.2 to 6.01 ha−1 and grain yield from 1.96 to 2.60 t ha−1, despite more weeds occurring with increasing rate of banded wetting agent. Use of press wheels, which also resulted in a furrow sowing condition, increased seedling emergence from 72 to 101 plants m−2 and grain yield from 1.70 to 2.131 ha−1. In the absence of heavy press wheel compaction, furrow sowing at 18-cm row spacings with full soil disturbance had no effect on seedling emergence or grain yield. The application of wetting agent increased topsoil wetting. Increased soil wetting may have increased plant nutrient availability (from fertilizer and soil), reduced soil water evaporation, and possibly reduced water loss to subsoil on this duplex soil. The optimum degree of compaction required on water-repellent soils is not known and needs further research.

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