Soil and plant responses to controlled traffic farming in Switzerland

Thomas Anken, Martin Holpp, Jan Rek, Peter Weisskopf

Resumen


A long-term tillage experiment in Tänikon, Switzerland showed that compared to ploughed plots, untilled plots developed a compact soil structure with decreased porosity and a trend towards lower oxygen concentration in the soil air. All these factors resulted in lower plant yields. To investigate the influence of wheeling on these plots, the shallow-tilled plots were converted to controlled traffic farming (CTF) with no-tillage in 2008. The hypothesis is that a sustainable improvement in soil structure and plant development is achievable in areas with no traffic. In a field trial with four repeated blocks, ‘CTF no-tillage’ was compared with ‘random trafficked mouldboard ploughing’ and ‘random trafficked no-tillage’. The crop rotation was winter wheat – winter barley – meadow, established on luvisol (23% clay, 34% silt, 42% sand) with an annual rainfall of 1190mm and an average annual temperature of 8.4 °C. An intensive monitoring programme was set up for various parameters: Soil-surface-level changes, penetration resistance, macropore volume, soil-air composition, matric potential, volumetric soil-water content, emergence rate, intermediate harvests and harvest yield. Results for 2008 to 2011 show that traffic has a clearly negative impact on soil structure in all variants, even when wheelings are done with low tyre-inflation pressure. Traffic-induced soil-surface-level changes were small, but nonetheless affected the soil’s physical parameters. Soil penetration resistance is higher and soil oxygen content after precipitations lower in the trafficked areas than in traffic-free zones. Yield effects were not as pronounced as in other published field trials. CTF and no-tillage achieved approximately the same yield levels, but routine ploughing resulted in the highest yields. CTF leads to a certain improvement in the soil structure, but the plant response showed that more improvement is necessary to optimise yields.


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