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Soil Science Society of America Journal Abstract - Soil & Water Management & Conservation

Tillage and Crop Rotation Effects on Dryland Soil and Residue Carbon and Nitrogen


This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 70 No. 2, p. 668-678
    Received: Mar 25, 2005

    * Corresponding author(s): usainju@sidney.ars.usda.gov
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  1. Upendra M. Sainju *,
  2. Andrew Lenssen,
  3. Thecan Caesar-Tonthat and
  4. Jed Waddell
  1. USDA-ARS, 1500 North Central Avenue, Sidney, MT 59270


Sustainable management practices are needed to enhance soil productivity in degraded dryland soils in the northern Great Plains. We examined the effects of two tillage practices [conventional till (CT) and no-till (NT)], five crop rotations [continuous spring wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) (CW), spring wheat-fallow (W-F), spring wheat-lentil (Lens culinaris Medic.) (W-L), spring wheat-spring wheat-fallow (W-W-F), and spring wheat-pea (Pisum sativum L.)-fallow (W-P-F)], and a Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) on plant biomass returned to the soil, residue C and N, and soil organic C (SOC), soil total N (STN), and particulate organic C and N (POC and PON) at the 0- to 20-cm depth. A field experiment was conducted in a mixture of Scobey clay loam (fine, smectitic, frigid Aridic Argiustolls) and Kevin clay loam (fine-loamy, mixed, superactive, frigid Aridic Argiustolls) from 1998 to 2003 near Havre, MT. Mean annualized plant biomass returned to the soil from 1998 to 2003 was greater in W-F (2.02 Mg ha−1) than in W-L and W-W-F, regardless of tillage. In 2004, residue cover was greater in CW (60%) than in other rotations, except in W-W-F. Residue amount and C and N contents were greater in NT with CW (2.47 Mg ha−1 and 963 and 22 kg ha−1, respectively) than in NT with W-L and CT with other crop rotations. The POC at 0 to 5 cm was greater in W-W-F and W-P-F (2.1–2.2 Mg ha−1) than in W-L. Similarly, STN at 5 to 20 cm was greater in CT with W-L (2.21 Mg ha−1) than in other treatments, except in NT with W-W-F. Reduced tillage and increased cropping intensity, such as NT with CW and W-L, conserved C and N in dryland soils and crop residue better than the traditional practice, CT with W-F, and their contents were similar to or better than in CRP planting.

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