Tillage and crop rotation effects on soil carbon and selected soil physical properties in a Haplic Cambisol in Eastern Cape, South Africa

https://doi.org/10.17221/176/2018-SWRCitation:Mtyobile M., Muzangwa L., Mnkeni P.N.S. (2020): Tillage and crop rotation effects on soil carbon and selected soil physical properties in a Haplic Cambisol in Eastern Cape, South Africa. Soil & Water Res., 15: 47-54.
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The effects of tillage and crop rotation on the soil carbon, the soil bulk density, the porosity and the soil water content were evaluated during the 6th season of an on-going field trial at the University of Fort Hare Farm (UFH), South Africa. Two tillage systems; conventional tillage (CT) and no-till and crop rotations; maize (Zea mays L.)-fallow-maize (MFM), maize-fallow-soybean (Glycine max L.) (MFS); maize-wheat (Triticum aestivum L.)-maize (MWM) and  maize-wheat-soybean (MWS) were evaluated. The field experiment was a 2 × 4 factorial, laid out in a randomised complete design. The crop residues were retained for the no-till plots and incorporated for the CT plots, after each cropping season. No significant effects (P > 0.05) of the tillage and crop rotation on the bulk density were observed. However, the values ranged from 1.32 to1.37 g/cm3. Significant interaction effects of the tillage and crop rotation were observed on the soil porosity (P < 0.01) and the soil water content (P < 0.05). The porosity for the MFM and the MWS, was higher under the CT whereas for the MWM and the MWS, it was higher under the no-till. However, the greatest porosity was under the MWS. Whilst the no-till significantly increased (P < 0.05) the soil water content compared to the CT; the greatest soil water content was observed when the no-till was combined with the MWM rotations. The soil organic carbon (SOC) was increased more (P < 0.05) by the no-till than the CT, and the MFM consistently had the least SOC compared with the rest of the crop rotations, at all the sampling depths (0–5, 5–10 and 10–20 cm). The soil bulk density negatively correlated with the soil porosity and the soil water content, whereas the porosity positively correlated with the soil water content. The study concluded that the crop rotations, the MWM and the MWS under the no-till coupled with the residue retention improved the soil porosity and the soil water content levels the most.

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