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Soil management systems to overcome multiple constraints for dryland crops on deep sands in a water limited environment on the south coast of Western Australia

Hall, D.J.M., Davies, S.L., Bell, R.W.ORCID: 0000-0002-7756-3755 and Edwards, T.J. (2020) Soil management systems to overcome multiple constraints for dryland crops on deep sands in a water limited environment on the south coast of Western Australia. Agronomy, 10 (12). Article 1881.

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Deep sands on the south coast sandplain of Western Australia (WA) have multiple soil constraints including water repellence, high soil strength, low nutrient levels and subsoil acidity. The aim of the study was to test contrasting methods of managing water repellence and to assess their impacts on one or more soil constraints to crop production. These methods included seeding tyne design (knife point, winged points, paired row), soil wetting agent addition, strategic inversion tillage (rotary spading, mouldboard ploughing to 0.35 m) and clay-rich subsoil addition (170 t ha−1 with incorporation by spading to 0.20 or 0.35 m). Limesand (2 t ha−1) was applied as a split plot treatment prior to tillage. Cumulative crop yields were increased by 2.1–2.6 t ha−1 over five years by the strategic deep tillage and clay application treatments compared to the control. Water repellence was reduced by the inversion ploughing and subsoil clay addition treatments only. The effect of water repellence on crop establishment was expressed only in low rainfall years (Decile < 4) and mitigated by the paired row, wetting agent, spader and clay-amended treatments. In all years, plant numbers were adequate to achieve yield potential regardless of treatment. Soil K and plant tissue K and B were increased where clay had been applied. Inversion tillage reduced soil pH, organic carbon (OC) and macro nutrients in the 0–0.1 m layer although in most years there was no significant decline in plant tissue macro nutrient levels. Soil strength was reduced as a result of the inversion tillage to a depth of 0.35 m. However, the alleviation of soil strength and the crop yield responses diminished with time due to re-compaction. No crop response to the applied lime was found over five years at this site since the soil pHCaCl2 exceeded 4.7 within the root zone. In terms of soil constraints, we conclude that compaction was the dominant constraint at this site followed by water repellence and K deficiency.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Agricultural Sciences
Publisher: Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (MDPI)
Copyright: © 2020 by the authors
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