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Influence of tillage systems and nitrogen management on grain yield, grain protein and nitrogen-use efficiency in UK spring wheat

  • K. RIAL-LOVERA (a1), W. P. DAVIES (a1), N. D. CANNON (a1) and J. S. CONWAY (a1)

Effects of soil tillage systems and nitrogen (N) fertilizer management on spring wheat yield components, grain yield and N-use efficiency (NUE) were evaluated in contrasting weather of 2013 and 2014 on a clay soil at the Royal Agricultural University's Harnhill Manor Farm, Cirencester, UK. Three tillage systems – conventional plough tillage (CT), high intensity non-inversion tillage (HINiT) and low intensity non-inversion tillage (LINiT) for seedbed preparation – were compared at four rates of N fertilizer (0, 70, 140 and 210 kg N/ha). Responses to the effects of the management practices were strongly influenced by weather conditions and varied across seasons. Grain yields were similar between LINiT and CT in 2013, while CT produced higher yields in 2014. Nitrogen fertilization effects also varied across the years with no significant effects observed on grain yield in 2013, while in 2014 applications up to 140 kg N/ha increased yield. Grain protein ranged from 10·1 to 14·5% and increased with N rate in both years. Nitrogen-use efficiency ranged from 12·6 to 49·1 kg grain per kg N fertilizer and decreased as N fertilization rate increased in both years. There was no tillage effect on NUE in 2013, while in 2014 NUE under CT was similar to LINiT and higher than HINiT. The effect of tillage and N fertilization on soil moisture and soil mineral N (SMN) fluctuated across years. In 2013, LINiT showed significantly higher soil moisture than CT, while soil moisture did not differ between tillage systems in 2014. Conventional tillage had significantly higher SMN at harvest time in 2014, while no significant differences on SMN were observed between tillage systems in 2013. These results indicate that LINiT can be used to produce similar spring wheat yield to CT on this particular soil type, if a dry cropping season is expected. Crop response to N fertilization is limited when soil residual N is higher, while in conditions of lower residual SMN, a higher N supply is needed to increase yield and improve grain protein content.

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