Agricultural Research Division of IANR


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Published in Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 64:339–346 (2000).


Adoption of reduced-tillage fallow systems in the western USA is limited by winter annual grass weeds such as downy brome (Bromus tectorum L.). Moldboard plowing is an effective means of controlling downy brome in winter wheat (Tritcum aestivum L.)–fallow systems. The purpose of this study was to assess the influence of plowing and secondary tillage operations, for the purpose of weed control, on soil quality attributes of a silt loam soil that had been cropped in a subtill or no-till (NT) winter wheat–fallow system for more than 20 yr. Compared with undisturbed NT, downy brome populations in plowed NT decreased 97 and 41% in the first and third crops following tillage, respectively. Wheat yields in plowed NT treatments were 30 and 9% greater in the first and third crops following tillage, respectively, compared with undisturbed NT. Soil quality indicators assessed were organic C (OC), total N, inorganic N, pH, electrical conductivity, bulk density, water infiltration rate, and pore-size distribution. Five years after tillage, soil OC decline in the 0- to 7.5-cm depth was 20% in plowed compared with undisturbed NT; however, OC increased 15% in the 7.5- to 15-cm depth and was not different in the 0- to 30-cm depth. Total soil N followed similar trends. Soil inorganic N in plowed NT decreased 37%, and soil pH increased 9%, compared with undisturbed NT, at the 0- to 7.5-cm depth. Occasional tillage with the moldboard plow in a reduced- or no-tillage management system will help control winter annual grass weeds, while retaining many of the soil quality benefits of conservation-tillage management.

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