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Effects of Reduced Tillage on Crop Yield, Plant Available Nutrients and Soil Organic Matter in a 12-Year Long-Term Trial under Organic Management

Author(s): Sabine Zikeli | Sabine Gruber | Claus-Felix Teufel | Karin Hartung | Wilhelm Claupein

Journal: Sustainability
ISSN 2071-1050

Volume: 5;
Issue: 9;
Start page: 3876;
Date: 2013;
Original page

Keywords: organic farming | reduced tillage | soil organic carbon | plant available nutrients | long-term trial | humus budget | Corg | mineralization | moldboard plow | chisel plow | conservation tillage

A field experiment was performed in Southwest Germany to examine the effects of long-term reduced tillage (2000–2012). Tillage treatments were deep moldboard plow: DP, 25 cm; double-layer plow; DLP, 15 + 10 cm, shallow moldboard plow: SP, 15 cm and chisel plow: CP, 15 cm, each of them with or without preceding stubble tillage. The mean yields of a typical eight-year crop rotation were 22% lower with CP compared to DP, and 3% lower with SP and DLP. Stubble tillage increased yields by 11% across all treatments. Soil nutrients were high with all tillage strategies and amounted for 34–57 mg kg−1 P and 48–113 mg kg−1 K (0–60 cm soil depth). Humus budgets showed a high carbon input via crops but this was not reflected in the actual Corg content of the soil. Corg decreased as soil depth increased from 13.7 g kg−1 (0–20 cm) to 4.3 g kg−1 (40–60 cm) across all treatments. After 12 years of experiment, SP and CP resulted in significantly higher Corg content in 0–20 cm soil depth, compared to DP and DLP. Stubble tillage had no significant effect on Corg. Stubble tillage combined with reduced primary tillage can sustain yield levels without compromising beneficial effects from reduced tillage on Corg and available nutrient content.
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