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Research Report  2.6

Measuring the Effect of Crop Residue in Conservation
Tillage Systems on Soil and Water Quality

C.F. Drury, C.S. Tan, T.W. Welacky, T.O. Oloya, A.S. Hamill, and S.E. Weaver
Harrow Research Station, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada,
Harrow, ONT N0R 1G0
E.G. Gregorich,
Eastern Cereals and Oilseed Research Centre,
Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0C6
COESA Report No.:  RES/FARM-006/97

Objectives & Expected Outputs
Executive Summary
Table of Contents

View / Download Report   [229 KB pdf]


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Objectives and Expected Outputs
Objectives: To improve the effectiveness of red clover as a cover crop on clay soil by measuring changes in soil structure, hydraulic properties and the influence on soil biomass and N-cycling attributable to red clover in a wheat-corn-soybean rotation, by altering the method and time of killing, by discovering the limiting factors to corn growth planted into wheat-red clover residue and by observing the impact of red clover cover on weed management.
Expected Outputs: New information, or confirmation of existing information, which will assist in superior recommendations for the management of crop residue or live cover crops on clay soil.
Type: Fed. Government, In-House
Spending Profile: 93-94: $73 K;    94-95: $106.1 K;    95-96: $104.9 K;    96-97: $85 K;    Total: $369 K
Status: Available March 1998


Executive Summary

No-tillage systems have not worked very well for corn which is a problem as corn is commonly used in a rotation with wheat and soybean. Furthermore, when corn follows winter wheat there may be an additional problem associated with residue management during the early stages of corn growth. The objective were to determine the effects of no-tillage systems on soil physical, biological and chemical properties and to identify the problems associated with planting corn into wheat stubble.

Treatments included conventional versus no tillage both with and without red clover in a wheat-corn-soybean rotation in a clay loam soil. Results have been determined in the corn year of the rotation. No-tillage treatments improved soil structure and when red clover was included further improvements occurred. No-tillage treatments increased soil water content and reduced soil temperatures by 2-3 C in June. Soil drying occurred along the planting slot of the no-tillage treatments which enabled the soil to open and the corn seedling to become water stressed; even though the no-tillage treatments were wetter in the spring. The net result was that the corn in the no-tillage treatments was significantly delayed and was never able to catch up to the corn in the conventional tillage treatments.

The soil respiration rates were 30% greater in conventional tillage than no-tillage treatments. Hence, residue decomposition was considerably greater with the conventional tillage treatments. The no tillage treatment had lower corn grain yields than the conventional tillage treatment in all three years of the study. However, in both 1994 and 1996, when red clover was included in the crop rotation, no-tillage corn grain yields were similar to conventional tillage yields. Red clover improved soil structure and accelerated the decomposition of the crop residue which contributed to the yield improvement in the no-tillage treatments.


 Table of Contents

1. Executive Summary

2. Introduction

2.1 Tillage effects on soil quality and crop productivity
2.2 Cover crop effects on soil quality and crop productivity
2.3 The effects of red clover under-seeded in wheat on soil quality and crop productivity
2.4 The interaction between cover crops and reduced tillage systems

3. Objectives

4. Materials and Methods

4.1 Tillage and red clover effects on crop performance
4.2 Soil physical properties
4.3 Soil biological properties

5. Results and Discussion

5.1 Tillage and red clover effects on emergence and initial soil conditions
5.2 Residue decomposition during the growing season
5.3 Soil structure and crop productivity
5.4 Weed ecology

6. Acknowledgements

7. References



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