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Toowoomba, Australia

Dang Y.P.,University of Queensland | Seymour N.P.,Food and Fisheries | Walker S.R.,University of Queensland | Bell M.J.,University of Queensland | Freebairn D.M.,RPS Australia Asia Pacific
Soil and Tillage Research | Year: 2015

Development of no-tillage (NT) farming has revolutionized agricultural systems by allowing growers to manage greater areas of land with reduced energy, labour and machinery inputs to control erosion, improve soil health and reduce greenhouse gas emission. However, NT farming systems have resulted in a build-up of herbicide-resistant weeds, an increased incidence of soil- and stubble-borne diseases and enrichment of nutrients and carbon near the soil surface. Consequently, there is an increased interest in the use of an occasional tillage (termed strategic tillage, ST) to address such emerging constraints in otherwise-NT farming systems. Decisions around ST uses will depend upon the specific issues present on the individual field or farm, and profitability and effectiveness of available options for management. This paper explores some of the issues with the implementation of ST in NT farming systems. The impact of contrasting soil properties, the timing of the tillage and the prevailing climate exert a strong influence on the success of ST. Decisions around timing of tillage are very complex and depend on the interactions between soil water content and the purpose for which the ST is intended. The soil needs to be at the right water content before executing any tillage, while the objective of the ST will influence the frequency and type of tillage implement used. The use of ST in long-term NT systems will depend on factors associated with system costs and profitability, soil health and environmental impacts. For many farmers maintaining farm profitability is a priority, so economic considerations are likely to be a primary factor dictating adoption. However, impacts on soil health and environment, especially the risk of erosion and the loss of soil carbon, will also influence a grower's choice to adopt ST, as will the impact on soil moisture reserves in rainfed cropping systems. © 2015 Elsevier B.V.

Dang Y.P.,University of Queensland | Moody P.W.,Information Technology | Bell M.J.,University of Queensland | Seymour N.P.,Food and Fisheries | And 3 more authors.
Soil and Tillage Research | Year: 2015

In semi-arid sub-tropical areas, a number of studies concerning no-till (NT) farming systems have demonstrated advantages in economic, environmental and soil quality aspects over conventional tillage (CT). However, adoption of continuous NT has contributed to the build-up of herbicide resistant weed populations, increased incidence of soil- and stubble-borne diseases, and stratification of nutrients and organic carbon near the soil surface. Some farmers often resort to an occasional strategic tillage (ST) to manage these problems of NT systems. However, farmers who practice strict NT systems are concerned that even one-time tillage may undo positive soil condition benefits of NT farming systems. We reviewed the pros and cons of the use of occasional ST in NT farming systems. Impacts of occasional ST on agronomy, soil and environment are site-specific and depend on many interacting soil, climatic and management conditions. Most studies conducted in North America and Europe suggest that introducing occasional ST in continuous NT farming systems could improve productivity and profitability in the short term; however in the long-term, the impact is negligible or may be negative. The short term impacts immediately following occasional ST on soil and environment include reduced protective cover, soil loss by erosion, increased runoff, loss of C and water, and reduced microbial activity with little or no detrimental impact in the long-term. A potential negative effect immediately following ST would be reduced plant available water which may result in unreliability of crop sowing in variable seasons. The occurrence of rainfall between the ST and sowing or immediately after the sowing is necessary to replenish soil water lost from the seed zone. Timing of ST is likely to be critical and must be balanced with optimising soil water prior to seeding. The impact of occasional ST varies with the tillage implement used; for example, inversion tillage using mouldboard tillage results in greater impacts as compared to chisel or disc. Opportunities for future research on occasional ST with the most commonly used implements such as tine and/or disc in Australia's northern grains-growing region are presented in the context of agronomy, soil and the environment. © 2014.

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