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Soil disturbance levels, soil water content and the establishment of rainfed chickpea: Mechanised seeding options for smallholder farms in north‐west Bangladesh

Vance, W.H., Bell, R.W.ORCID: 0000-0002-7756-3755, Johansen, C., Haque, M.E., Musa, A.M. and Shahidullah, A.K.M. (2020) Soil disturbance levels, soil water content and the establishment of rainfed chickpea: Mechanised seeding options for smallholder farms in north‐west Bangladesh. Journal of Agronomy and Crop Science . Early View.

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Optimum soil physical conditions for crop establishment are more likely to occur with mechanised row‐sowing using metered seeding and controlled depth placement of seeds than with broadcast sowing, that is common in many traditional South Asian cropping practices. Establishment success is a limitation for post‐rice crops in medium to heavy textured soils in the Eastern Gangetic Plain because sowing coincides with rapid topsoil drying and increases in soil strength. In addition, due to lack of rainfall in the post‐rice season the crop relies on access to stored soil water during vegetative and reproductive growth to achieve adequate yields. Our aim was to determine whether decreased soil disturbance (from full tillage to zero tillage (ZT) to undisturbed soil (Fallow)) and direct seeding (using small‐scale seeders) could 1) enhance chickpea crop establishment by conserving seedbed soil water and 2) alter crop water use of the water stored in the soil profile. The silt loam soil has an estimated volumetric soil water content (θv) of 34% at field capacity. At sowing, θv in the seedbed was between 25% to 29%. This was adequate for successful chickpea crop establishment, but slightly wetter than optimum for tillage. In the wet soil at sowing, there was evidence of smeared furrow walls and poor soil covering of the seed in the seedbed in strip planting (SP; rotating blades in front of tine) and ZT. Uncovered furrows (in ZT; using a tine opener) and the fallow soil lost more surface soil water (9%, 23 days after sowing) than the seedbeds created with greater levels of soil disturbance. In 2008, grain yield of single‐pass shallow tillage (SPST) was greater than SP but in 2009, grain yields of all one‐pass tillage techniques (ZT, SP, SPST) were greater than in the broadcast seeding in fully tilled soils. The improvement in chickpea yields was attributed to greater plant numbers, early plant vigour and root growth. Chickpea roots were found to 60 cm depth in the soil profile, and soil water content was less than the θv of wilting point to this depth at podding. There is evidence that root growth and plant water uptake occur deeper in these soil profiles to achieve the grain yields > 1,000 kg/ha recorded in this study. Mechanised sowing in rows with small‐scale seeders has the capability to overcome establishment and yield limitations for chickpea on medium to heavy soils in the post‐rice season.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Agricultural Sciences
Publisher: Blackwell Publishing
Copyright: © 2020 Wiley‐VCH GmbH
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