Water use efficiency of spring wheat in the semi-arid Canadian Prairies: Effect of legume green manure, type of spring wheat, and cropping frequency.

Kröbel, R., Lemke, R.L., Campbell, C.A., Zentner, R.P., McConkey, B.G., Steppuhn, H., De Jong, R., and Wang, H. (2014). "Water use efficiency of spring wheat in the semi-arid Canadian Prairies: Effect of legume green manure, type of spring wheat, and cropping frequency.", Canadian Journal of Soil Science, 94(2), pp. 223-235. doi : 10.4141/CJSS2013-016  Access to full text

Abstract

In the semi-arid Canadian prairie, water is the main determinant of crop production; thus its efficient use is of major agronomic interest. Previous research in this region has demonstrated that the most meaningful way to measure water use efficiency (WUE) is to use either precipitation use efficiency (PUE) or a modified WUE that accounts for the inefficient use of water in cropping systems that include summer fallow. In this paper, we use these efficiency measures to determine how cropping frequency, inclusion of a legume green manure, and the type of spring wheat [high-yielding Canada Prairie Spring (CPS) vs. Canada Western Red Spring (CWRS)] influence WUE using 25 yr of data (1987–2011) from the “New Rotation” experiment conducted at Swift Current, Saskatchewan. This is a well-fertilized study that uses minimum and no-tillage techniques and snow management to enhance soil water capture. We compare these results to those from a 39-yr “Old Rotation” experiment, also at Swift Current, which uses conventional tillage management. Our results confirmed the positive effect on WUE of cropping intensity, and of CPS wheat compared with CWRS wheat, while demonstrating the negative effect on WUE of a green manure crop in wheat-based rotations in semiarid conditions. Furthermore, we identified a likely advantage of using reduced tillage coupled with water conserving snow management techniques for enhancing the efficiency of water use.

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