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International Journal of Soil Science
Year: 2006  |  Volume: 1  |  Issue: 2  |  Page No.: 91 - 107

Soil Physical Response to Multi-Year Rice-wheat Production in India

R.P. Tripathi, Peeyush Sharma and Surendra Singh    

Abstract: High yields of rice (Oryza sativa L.) and wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) achieved in India following the green revolution have tended to decline after 5 to 8 years of continuous production in the same field. We hypothesized that degradation of soil physical quality was responsible for the yield decline because nutrient, pesticide and irrigation management were relatively well optimized. A soil physical quality assessment model was thus developed using 4 years of data from tillage and crop residue experiments conducted on a silty clay loam (Aquic hapludoll) at the Crop Research Centre, Pantnagar, India. Tillage for rice increased Bulk Density (BD) and Puddling Index (PI) and decreased saturated hydraulic conductivity (Ks), porosity (f) and Infiltration Rate (IR) over the 4 years. Changes in soil properties were significantly higher in the plots puddled by 4 Passes of Rotavator (PR) and in Conventional Puddling (CP) plots than in reduced puddling (ReP) and Direct Seeding Without Puddling (DSWP) plots. The crop residue management and wheat tillage treatments did not significantly influence soil physical properties in the 4 years time but the negative effect of puddling on soil properties was more in the Residue Removed (RR) plots than in the Residue Incorporated (RI) plots. Rice yield was highest in PR, which was at par with that in CP and ReP plots and wheat yield was highest in DSWP, which was at par with that in ReP, irrespective of tillage levels for wheat. Decrease in rice and wheat yields over the 4 years was not significant. Regression of grain yield on soil physical properties showed significant effects of BD and Ks on rice yield and that of IR and f on wheat yield. These relationships were used to develop a Soil Physical Quality Index (SPQI) model. Values of SPQI for treatments with grain yields that were statistically equal to maximum yield ranged from 0.70 to 0.80 for rice soils and 0.75 to 1.0 for wheat soils. Overall, tillage and residue treatments did not significantly degrade soil physical quality during the first 4 years, but projections based on the SPQI suggest they could in 5 to 9 years depending on the practices used for soil puddling and residue management. In DSWP, SPQI for rice was significantly lower from the first year itself (which indicates need for tillage) but was in the optimum range for wheat even under zero tillage. The proposed SPQI model has been verified using the published data on rice-wheat system under different soil conditions across the country.

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