Soil surface cover on irrigated rotations for potato (Solanum tuberosum L.), dry bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.), sugar beet (Beta vulgaris L.), and soft white spring wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) in southern Alberta
Larney, F.J., Pearson, D.C., Blackshaw, R.E., Lupwayi, N.Z. (2017). Soil surface cover on irrigated rotations for potato (Solanum tuberosum L.), dry bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.), sugar beet (Beta vulgaris L.), and soft white spring wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) in southern Alberta, 72(6), 584-596. http://dx.doi.org/10.2489/jswc.72.6.584
© 2017 Soil and Water Conservation Society. All rights reserved. Soil surface cover (crop residue and fall-seeded cover crops) during the nongrowing season is an important tenet of sustainable agriculture, reducing wind and water erosion risk and enhancing soil water conservation. Expansion of irrigated row crop production, namely, potato (Solanum tuberosum L.), dry bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.), and sugar beet (Beta vulgaris L.), in southern Alberta in the late 1990s prompted a 12-year (2000 to 2011) study to evaluate rotations and soil management systems for improved soil quality. The study compared conservation (CONS) and conventional (CONV) management systems in three-to six-year rotations. Conservation management included cover crops; reduced tillage; feedlot manure compost addition; and solid-seeded, narrow-row dry bean production. Beginning in the third year of the study (2002), surface residue cover was estimated each spring prior to tillage or seeding. Averaged over 10 years (2002 to 2011), residue cover was significantly higher on CONS (15.6%) versus CONV (7.1%) management. Cover was significantly higher where wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) was the previous crop (33.7%) compared to narrow-row dry bean (9.7%), which was significantly higher than potato and sugar beet (6.5% to 6.7%), which were in turn significantly higher than wide-row bean (3.6%). Inclusion of a fall rye (Secale cereale L.) cover crop after potato or dry bean increased residue cover close to or more than 30%, the threshold required to reduce wind erosion risk. Long-term replacement of cereals with lower residue-producing crops (e.g., potato, dry bean, and sugar beet) on irrigated rotations in southern Alberta should be considered judiciously in light of potential negative effects on surface residue cover.
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