oa Agriprobe - The effects of soil tillage and crop rotation on crop residue cover at the Tygerhoek and Langgewens Research Farms during the 2012 production season : Elsenburg Journal

Volume 10, Issue 4
  • ISSN : 1810-9799



One of the cornerstones of conservation agriculture is stubble retention. Residue cover of at least 30% directly after seeding is prescribed to qualify as conservation agricultural practice and thereby contributes to ensure sustainable crop production. The aim of this study was to quantify residue cover of the soil surface as influenced by tillage practice and crop rotation. The current study is a component study within a long-term tillage/cropping system trial. Three crop rotations, continuous wheat (WWWW), wheat/medic/wheat/medic (WMcWMc) and wheat/canola/wheat/lupin (WCWL) were allocated to main plots replicated four times. Each main plot was subdivided into four sub-plots allocated to four tillage treatments, namely: zero-till - soil left undisturbed; no-till - soil left undisturbed until planting and then planted with a tined, no-till planter; minimum till - soil scarified March/April and then planted with a no-till planter; and conventional tillage - soil scarified late March/early April, then ploughed and planted with a no-till planter. The line-transect method was used to estimate residue cover immediately after planting. Mean residue cover during 2012 was at similar levels for both sites with Langgewens and Tygerhoek recording mean residue cover values of 53 and 59% respectively. At Langgewens the zero-, no-, minimum- and conventional-till treatments resulted in 98, 63, 29 and 5% residue cover respectively. The percentage residue cover recorded at Tygerhoek for the zero-, no-, minimum- and conventional-till treatments were 86, 56, 42 and 30% respectively. At both sites, wheat as previous crop resulted in higher (P=0.05) residue cover compared to the other systems tested. Lupin as previous crop resulted in the lowest residue cover, although not always significantly so. As no tillage treatments were done in the medic after wheat (McWMcW) systems, relatively high levels of crop residue cover were measured in these systems at both localities. Using the Ausplow (no-till planter) resulted in a reduction in mean residue cover of 23 and 24% at Langgewens and Tygerhoek respectively. The study showed that, on both sites, cultivation of the soil will reduce residue cover. The use of conventional tillage practices is questionable as the residue cover was reduced at both sites. In terms of residue cover wheat as previous crop was superior to medic, lupin and canola.

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