Effect of tillage systems combined with plastic film mulches and fertilizers on soil physical properties in a wheat-agricultural site in southern Iraq
Keywords:soil porosity, soil water content, soil aggregate stability, Conventional tillage, land management
This study researches the influence of the three tillage systems (conventional, economical and mulch tillage) when combined with different soil plastic mulching and fertilizer applications on key selected soil physical properties (SPP) at 0-20 cm soil depth in a wheat agricultural site, during summer (from 1st June to 31st July 2015). SPP include soil porosity (Φ), volumetric soil water content 60 days after irrigation to field capacity (q60), and mean weight diameter of aggregates (MWD). The term mulch tillage refers here to a soil conservation practice where the soil surface is disturbed by tillage whereby crop residues are mixed with the soil and a certain amount of residues remain on the soil surface, while mulching refers to the placement of inorganic material over the top of a soil surface to protect it. Soil treatments included tillage system: conventional tillage using a combination of a mouldboard plough and a disc harrow (MP+DH), economical tillage using a rotary cultivator (RC), and mulch tillage using a chisel plough (MT+CP); soil plastic mulching: transparent mulching (TM), black mulching (BM) of 200 cm wide with 0.05 cm thick, and without mulching (WM); and fertilisers: composed organic fertiliser (CoF), no-composed organic fertiliser (NoF), and chemical fertiliser (ChF). The split–split-plot design under the randomized complete block design (RCBD) was established in 27 treatments with 3 replicated, to map Φ, q60, and MWD based on 81 soil samples from all treatments. Results showed that the different soil treatments have diverse impacts on SPP. MP+DH resulted in the higher q60 (0.22 cm3 cm-3), MWD (0.85 mm), and Φ (56.87%). Our findings showed that MT+CP obtained a higher MWD of 0.98 mm and lower Φ of 49% compared to other tillage systems. Soil mulching had significantly modified SPP, with BM resulting in the highest Φ (55.65%), q60 (0.35 cm3 cm-3), and MWD (1.06 mm). Results indicated no significant differences between fertiliser types on SPP. The CoF had a significant effect on MWD and related soil characteristics studied. These findings can help us to understand the individual and combined effects of the tillage system, mulching, and fertilization application on some soil characteristics in wheat agriculture. A further study with more focus on the influence of tillage depths and mulching types (plastic vs organic mulch for different crops) under a variety of soils and climatic conditions, as well as on soil thermal properties needs further investigation.
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