Conference Proceeding

Tillage and Crop Residue Management for Improved Soil Physical Environment and Crop Water Productivity

Dr. Rajan Bhatt

Substantial increase in the agricultural water productivity is essential to meet future goals of food and environmental security. Intensive cultivation of rice and wheat has resulted in air pollution, soil physical degradation and declining groundwater resources. Thus, resource conservation technologies for better soil health and higher crop water productivity need to be studied for mitigating the above-said problems. Large amount of crop residues (47.2 million tons) is produced annually in the state (Yadwinder-Singh et al 2010), whose fate is a big question as generally these are burnt for easy seeding operations for the succeeding wheat crop. Burning causes substantial loss of organic carbon (Yadvinder-Singh et al 2004, Beri et al 1995), thereby deteriorating soil structure and physical environment (Gangwar et al 2006). Residue incorporation into the soil has a limitation as it causes N-immobilization because of its higher C:N ratio and has an adverse effect on the wheat yield. Adopting proper tillage options to manage these crop residues through their retention on the soil, can certainly solve the problem as residues on the surface act as mulch and help in water retention (Bhatt and Khera 2006, Sharma et al 1990), increase minimum and decrease maximum soil temperature (Sidhu et al 2007), increase water infiltration rate (Arshad et al 1999), decrease evaporation, increase transpiration, crop yield and crop water productivity (Singh et al 2011).The retention of rice residues as surface mulch could be beneficial for moisture conservation and yield, and hence higher crop water productivity, in addition to reducing air pollution and loss of soil organic matter (Singh et al 2011). The studies have shown that instead of incorporation of crop residues into the soil, their retention on the soil surface increases the water productivity (Yadvinder- Singh et al 2009, Sommer et al 2012), as it saves irrigation water over conventional tillage and partitioning a greater fraction of ET towards higher productive transpiration component (Arora et al 2011).The double ZT system viz. wheat sowing with Happy seeder and paddy sowing with ZT drill in standing wheat stubbles improves the mean weight diameter, water holding capacity and finally crop water productivity (Jat et al 2009), while intensive tillage causes loss of SOC as the once protected organic matter exposed to soil micro-organisms is oxidized to the atmosphere as CO2. Thus zero tillage is preferred over CT for improving the soil physical environment (Arshad et al 1999, Jat et al 2012).On the contrary, Benbi and Brar (2009) reported an increase in soil organic carbon (SOC) with intensive cultivation. Proper residue management by adopting suitable tillage operations viz. conservation tillage can help in sequestering (SOC)into the soil (Yadvinder-Singh et al 2010, Paul 2013, Xu et al 2011, Olsen 2013), which further improves the soil physical environment (Lal R 1997). Thus it can be concluded that retaining crop residues on the soil surface coupled with reduced tillage seems to be the best answer to increase the crop water productivity in the region as it sequester more SOC, improve soil physical environment and partition a greater fraction of ET towards more productive transpiration component.

Published: 08 November 2017


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