Agronomic and economic evaluation of permanent raised beds, no tillage and straw mulching for an irrigated maize-wheat system in northwest India

Experimental Agriculture (Impact Factor: 1.08). 01/2012; 48(1):21-38. DOI: 10.1017/S0014479711000809


No-tillage and raised beds are widely used for different crops in developed countries. A field experiment
was conducted on an irrigated maize-wheat system to study the effect of field layout, tillage and straw
mulch on crop performance, water use efficiency and economics for five years (2003–2008) in northwest
India. Straw mulch reduced the maximum soil temperature at seed depth by about 3 ◦C compared to the
no mulch. During the wheat emergence, raised beds recorded 1.3 ◦C higher soil temperature compared
to the flat treatments. Both maize and wheat yields were similar under different treatments during all the
years. Maize and wheat planted on raised beds recorded about 7.8% and 22.7% higher water use efficiency
than under flat layout, respectively. Straw mulch showed no effect on water use and water use efficiency in
maize. The net returns from the maize-wheat system were more in no tillage and permanent raised beds
than with conventional tillage. Bulk density and cumulative infiltration were more in no tillage compared
with conventional tillage.

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    • "This is evident from the relatively less application of irrigation water but proportionally higher yields of individual crops and cropping system in PRBs compared with NTF. Similar results of lower water use and high water productivity of maize on PRBs was reported earlier by Aggarwal & Goswami (2003), Connor et al. (2003), Ram et al. (2012), Jat et al. (2013), Kaur & Mahey (2005) and Ram et al. (2005). Less water use in PRBs resulted in more water saving than NTF (Gathala et al., 2011a; Jat et al., 2013). "
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    ABSTRACT: Cereal cropping productivity in the Indo-Gangetic Plain (IGP) of India is declining, which may be overcome by diversification, alternate crop establishment methods and mulching. This study was conducted to determine whether no-till flat (NTF), permanent raised beds (PRB) and nontraditional ex situ mulching would improve crop and water productivity, economic profitability and soil biological properties in an irrigated maize (Zea mays)–wheat (Triticum aestivum) system (MWS). NTF systems produced 10% higher economic net returns compared with PRBs. Non-traditional mulching (Sesbania, Jatropha and Brassica) increased yields by >10% and net returns by >12% compared with no-mulch. The water saving in PRBs compared with NTF systems was 79, 94 and 173 mm/ha in maize, wheat and MWS, respectively. PRBs saved 29.2% of irrigation water and improved the MWS irrigation water productivity (WPI) by 24.5% over NTF. On average, mulching saved 23.8 mm/ha irrigation water over no-mulch and improved WPI by 12.0%. PRBs with ex situ mulching produced wheat and maize equivalent system yields lower than NTF but improved WPI and soil biological properties. Jatropha and Sesbania mulching improved yield, water saving, WPI and system profitability. In limited irrigation and no crop residue availability conditions, Sesbania, Jatropha and Brassica vegetation material have potential applications for ex situ mulching under PRBs for water saving and NTF for productivity.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2015 · Soil Use and Management
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    • "Experimental evidences from rice-wheat and maize-wheat systems suggest that CA based alternative tillage and crop establishment methods can produce both immediate e.g. reduced production cost, stabilized crop yields, and improved water productivity (Hobbs, 2007; Jat et al., 2009; 2013; Ladha et al., 2009; Ram et al., 2012), and long-term benefits like improved soil quality (Gathala et al., 2011a; Kienzler et al., 2012). From a recent study in Bangladesh, Gathala et al. (2014) reported significant advantages in terms of increased yields and higher income from the permanent beds over the conventional tillage in RMS. "
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    ABSTRACT: Rice-maize system (RMS) is emerging as dominant option for diversification of existing rice-wheat systems in Asia due to better suitability and higher yields of maize compared to wheat after long duration rice cultivars, and increasing demand of maize from poultry and fish industries. The conventional practice of cultivation of RMS is input intensive, deteriorates soil health and is less profitable. Conservation agriculture (CA) based management practices such as dry direct-seeded rice (DSR), zero tillage (ZT) and residue retention may hold potential to increase yields, reduce costs and increase farmers' profits in RMS. Therefore, replicated 5-year field study was conducted to evaluate the effects of six combinations of three tillage and crop establishment (TCE) techniques and two residue management options on soil physical properties, system productivity and economics of an irrigated RMS in northwest India. The TCE techniques consisted of transplanted puddled rice (TPR) followed by conventionally tilled maize (CTM); CTDSR followed by CTM; and ZTDSR followed by ZTM in main plots and two residue management options; removal of residues of both the crops (ÀR) and partial residue (5 t ha À1) either retained at soil surface on ZT plots or incorporated into the soil in CT plots (+R) for both rice and maize in sub-plots. Compared with TPR/CTM-R, soil physical parameters such as water-stable aggregates >0.2 mm were 89% higher, and bulk density, penetrometer resistance and infiltration rate showed significant (P < 0.05) improvement in ZTDSR/ZTM (+R) treatment. Similarly, root mass density was 6 to 49% greater in rice and 21 to 53% in maize under ZTDSR/ZTM (+R) plots compared to conventional RMS in different soil layers to 60 cm depth. The total amount of soil organic carbon (SOC) in 0–30 cm layer increased by 2.86 Mg ha À1 in ZTDSR/ZTM (+R) over conventional practice. Grain yield of TPR was 5 –7% higher compared to CTDSR and ZTDSR, which was attributed to increased number of grains panicle À1 and grain weight. Maize yield under ZTDSR/ZTM was significantly higher by 4.0% and 14.2% compared to CTDSR/CTM and TPR/CTM, respectively, due to increase in number of cobs plant À1 and grain number cob À1. Gradual improvement in soil physical health in ZTDSR/ZTM +R system resulted in higher and stable crop productivity (17.4–17.6 kg m À3) with higher profitability in different years over conventional system. Our study demonstrates that CA based management practices can be adopted for RMS on sandy loam or similar soils for sustaining soil and crop productivity in South Asia.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2015 · Soil and Tillage Research
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    • ") . Overall , conservation tillage has number of benefits including resource conservation , reduction in cost of cultivation ( Ram et al . , 2012 ) , preventing soil erosion ( Stinner and House , 1990 ) , but fine - tuning of this technology in the context of pest incidence is still needed ."
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    ABSTRACT: Tillage changes the physical and chemical properties of soil and can also inhibit or enhance useful and harmful fauna. In agriculture, different tillage technologies are being tried to enhance crop productivity, but little concrete information seems to exist on their effects on pest abundance and damage. To address this lack of information, sowing of wheat was investigated under different tillage systems. In order to monitor pest abundance and damage in altered tillage systems, the present studies on the relative abundance and damage due to insect pests viz. pink stem borer (PSB, Sesamia inferens Walker), termites (Microtermes obesi Holmgren and Odontotermes obesus Rambur) and root aphid (Rhopalosiphum rufiabdominalis Sasaki) were undertaken in a rice–wheat cropping system during 2010–11 and 2011–12. Pest abundance and damage was monitored in four tillage systems i.e. conventional tillage (CT), zero tillage (ZT), ZT + mulch and rotary tillage (RT) under insecticide protected and unprotected conditions. The application of insecticide did not affect root aphid incidence or termite damage. However, significant differences in PSB damage in insecticide protected (0.9%) and unprotected (1.2%) conditions were observed. The investigations demonstrated that in CT, damage by PSB (0.6%) was minimum; however termite damage (2.2%) was maximum as compared to all other tillage conditions. In ZT, PSB damage (1.4%) was maximum and root aphid incidence (3.1 aphids/tiller) was minimum in comparison to other tillage conditions. ZT + mulch resulted in inter-mediate insect pest incidence/damage; however, RT was the least effective practice which showed relatively high incidence/damage of these three insects (1.2% PSB damage, 1.9% termite damage and 5.1 aphids/tiller). The insecticide × tillage interaction indicated that insecticide application is needed only in ZT and RT for PSB management.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2014 · Crop Protection
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