No-tillage and high-residue practices reduce soil water evaporation

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Reducing tillage and maintaining crop residues on the soil surface could improve the water use efficiency of California crop production. In two field studies comparing no-tillage with standard tillage operations (following wheat silage harvest and before corn seeding), we estimated that 0.89 and 0.97 inches more water was retained in the no-tillage soil than in the tilled soil. In three field studies on residue coverage, we recorded that about 0.56, 0.58 and 0.42 inches more water was retained in residue-covered soil than in bare soil following 6 to 7 days of overhead sprinkler irrigation. Assuming a seasonal crop evapotranspiration demand of 30 inches, coupling no-tillage with practices preserving high residues could reduce summer soil evaporative losses by about 4 inches (13%). However, practical factors, including the need for different equipment and management approaches, will need to be considered before adopting these practices.

Authors: 
Jeffrey P. Mitchell
Authors: 
Purnendu N. Singh
Authors: 
Wesley W. Wallender
Authors: 
Daniel S. Munk
Authors: 
Jon F. Wroble
Authors: 
William R. Horwath
Authors: 
Philip Hogan
Authors: 
Robert Roy
Authors: 
Blaine R. Hanson
Publisher: 
California Agriculture
Year: 
2012