Agronomy and Horticulture Department


Date of this Version



Published in Agron. J. 98:26–33 (2006). Copyright © American Society of Agronomy. Used by permission.


Tillage systems and nutrient management influence soil chemical properties that can impact the long-term sustainability of dryland production systems. This study was conducted to compare the effects of no-till (NT) and conventional till (CT) on the soil chemical properties and grain yield of a dryland winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.)– grain sorghum [Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench]/corn (Zea mays L.)– fallow rotation. The effects of tillage practice over a 27-yr period (1962– 1989) and the effect of the conversion of CT to NT over a 14-yr period (1989–2003) on selected soil chemical properties [pH, cation exchange capacity (CEC), base saturation (BS), soil organic C (SOC), K, Ca, Mg, and Bray-P] at different soil depths was determined. The acidification rate of the NT treatment from 1962 to 2003 was also determined. The study was conducted at North Platte, NE on a Holdrege silt loam (fine-silty, mixed, mesic Typic Argiustolls). In 1989, there were differences in soil chemical properties between CT and NT at some depths after 27 yr. However, in 2003, 14 yr after converting from CT to NT, there were no differences in the soil chemical properties compared with continuous NT. In 1989 and 2003, the soil chemical properties varied with soil depth. The acidification rate from 1962 to 2003 for the NT treatment in the 0- to 15-cm depth was 1.3 kmol H+ ha-1 yr-1. This rate of acidification represents 38% of the total potential acidity from N fertilizer applications over 41 yr. Acidification was attributed to nitrification of ammonium-based fertilizers and leaching of NO3- 2. Long-term winter wheat (1966–1983) and grain sorghum (1964–1988) grain yields were higher for NT (2718 and 4125 kg ha-1) than CT (2421 and 3062 kg ha-1). Retention of soil moisture as a result of increased residue cover under NT likely contributed to higher NT yields. Soil chemical properties in the wheat–sorghum/corn–fallow rotation will likely continue to change as a result of current management practices. Lime additions may become necessary in the future to ensure the sustainability of crop production in this system.