The effects of tillage systems on soil bulk density and penetrometer resistance of a sandy clay loam soil

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    The effects of tillage systems on soil bulk density andpenetrometer resistance of a sandy clay loam soilJ. T. Steyn a , J. P.C. Tolmay a , J. J. Human b & W. H. Kilian ca Grain Crops Institute, Small Grain Centre , Private Bag X29, Bethlehem , 9700 , Republicof South Africab Department of Agronomy , University of the Orange Free State , P.O. Box 339,Bloemfontein , 9300 , Republic of South Africac Grain Crops Institute, Small Grain Centre , Private Bag X29, Bethlehem , 9700 , Republicof South AfricaPublished online: 15 Jan 2013.

    To cite this article: J. T. Steyn , J. P.C. Tolmay , J. J. Human & W. H. Kilian (1995) The effects of tillage systems on soil bulkdensity and penetrometer resistance of a sandy clay loam soil, South African Journal of Plant and Soil, 12:2, 86-90, DOI:10.1080/02571862.1995.10634342

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  • 86 S. Afr. Tydskr. Plant Grond 1995, 12(2

    The effects of tillage systems on soil bulk density and penetrometer resistance of a sandy clay loam soil

    J.T. Steyn* and J.P.C. Tolmay Grain Crops Institute, Small Grain Centre, Private Bag X29, Bethlehem 9700, Republic of South Africa

    J.J. Human Department of Agronomy,University of the Orange Free State, P.O. Box 339, Bloemfontein 9300, Republic of South Africa

    W.H. Kilian Grain Crops Institute, Small Grain Centre, Private Bag X29 Bethlehem 9700, Republic of South Africa

    Accepted 6 January 1995

    Concern has been expressed that reduced tillage systems may lead to excessive soil compaction, with a negative impact on crop growth. The objectives of this study were to determine the effects of different tillage systems, namely, minimum tillage (disc and sweep), chisel plough and conventional tillage (plough) on soil bulk density, penetrometer resistance and yield. These effects were determined over a three-year period (1991/1992 and 199211993 seasons) on an Avalon sandy clay loam soil in the central Orange Free State. Results indicated that soil water content at planting was similar for the different tillage systems, except for slight differences in the upper soil depths. Penetration resistance and bulk density increased from a depth of 130 mm down to 290 mm of the soil using disc and sweeps compared with conventional tillage and chisel plough treatments. However, in the deeper soil zones, the tillage system did not consistently influence either bulk density or penetration resis-tance. At a depth of 400 mm, conventional tillage and chisel ploughing resulted in a lower bulk density than minimum tillage. The tillage operations for minimum tillage probably led to compaction in the deeper soil zone. Penetration resistance in the deeper soil zone in all tillage systems restricted rooting, but differences due to the tillage treatment were not sufficient to markedly influence the yield.

    Vrese bestaan dat minimum bewerking mag lei tot die verdigting van grondlae wat die groei van gewasse nega-tief kan be"invloed. Die doel van hierdie stu die was om die uitwerking van minimum bewerking (wisselgang-skotteleg en vlerkskaar), beitelploeg- en konvensionele bewerking (ploeg), op die groei van koring ten opsigte van brutodigtheid, penetrometerweerstand en opbrengs te evalueer. Hierdie bewerkingsbehandelings is oor 'n drie jaar periode op 'n Avalon sandkleileem grond in die Sentraal Vrystaat uitgevoer. Grondwater was tydens plant dieselfde vir elke bewerking, behalwe vir die geringe verskille in die boonste grondlae. Die penetrometer-weerstand en brutodigtheid is verhoog deur wisselgangskotteleg en vlerkskaar vanaf 'n diepte van 130 mm tot 'n diepte van 290 mm in vergelyking met konvensionele bewerking en beitelploeg. Penetrometerweerstand en brutodigtheid onder die bewerkingsdiepte is nie deur die bewerkingsbehandelings beinvloed nie. Op 'n diepte van 400 mm het konvensionele- en beitelploegbewerkings 'n laer brutodigtheid getoon as minimumbewerking. Die penetrometerweerstand in die dieper grondlae was hoog genoeg om wortelgroei te beperk, maar die ver-skille as gevolg van bewerkingsbehandelings was nie genoeg om die opbrengs te be"invloed nie.

    Keywords: Bulk density, penetrometer resistance, tillage systems, Triticum aestivum L.

    * To whom correspondence should be addressed

    Introduction 300 mm of silt loam soil were higher with zero tillage than with minimum tillage or conventional tillage treatments. Hoffman (1990) also observed that bulk densities of zero till-age and minimum tillage increased from the surface of the soil to a depth of 150 mm. Conventional tillage bulk densities increased between the depths of 250 mm and 300 mm. Pene-tration resistance was also higher in the top 250 mm in the minimum tilIage treatments than in the coventional tillage treatments (Hammel, 1989). Tillage does not consistently affect penetration resistance and bulk density, since soil tex-ture, aggregation, organic matter content and moisture condi-tions can influence the sensitivity of the soil to compaction and the persistence thereof (Marshall & Holmes 1979; Voor-hees, 1987).

    Traditional soil management in the central Free State involves late summer and autumn cultivation for residue management, weed control, seedbed preparation and to ameliorate surface compaction due to implement traffic and natural soil settling. Tillage practices may also lead to the breakdown of organic matter, loss of soil moisture and increased susceptibility to wind and water erosion. Conservation tillage, such as mini-mum tillage, can be valuable in combating soil degradation. However, excess compaction may restrict soil aeration and crop root development, thus restricting water uptake, nutrient availability and overall crop growth. Compaction can be eval-uated by penetration resistance and bulk density measure-ments (Grant & Lafond, 1993).

    Hammel (1989) observed that bulk densities in the top Carefoot, Nyborg & Lindwall (1990) observed that bulk

    density did not differ in loam and clay soils which had




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  • S.Afr.J.PlantSoiI1995,12(2)

    received three to eight years of zero tillage when compared with conventional tillage. Chang & Lindwall (1989) reported no differences in bulk density between minimum tillage and conventional tillage after 20 years under spring cereal - sum-mer fallow rotation on a clay soil. Bennie & Botha (1986) observed that deep ripping at field water capacity lowered penetrometer resistance and decreased bulk density from 1.76 Mg m-3 to 1.66 Mg m-3 Chang & Lindwall (1992) found only minor differences in bulk density between conventional tillage, minimum tillage and zero tillage after eight years under continuous winter wheat cultivation.

    A well-planned crop rotation system can improve resist-ance to soil erosion and degradation, improve soil fertility, enhance aggregate stability and increase availability of stored water, in addition to being of agronomic and economic bene-fit to the producer (Taylor & Brar, 1991).

    Little information has been collected in the central Orange Free State regarding the effects of different tillage systems on wheat production and soil quality. A study was therefore initi-ated in 1990 to examine the relative performance of minimum tillage, chisel plough and conventional tillage, with regard to wheat production in terms of soil water conservation, soil physical and chemical properties, root development, yield and

    . economy. This paper summarizes the effects of tillage sys-tems on soil bulk density, penetration resistance, yield and soil water content with planting.

    Materials and Methods

    The study was conducted from 1990 to 1993 at Thab


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