Conservation tillage in a semiarid Mediterranean environment: results of 20 years of research

  • Paolo Ruisi | paolo.ruisi@unipa.it Department of Agricultural and Forest Sciences, University of Palermo, Italy.
  • Dario Giambalvo Department of Agricultural and Forest Sciences, University of Palermo, Italy.
  • Sergio Saia Department of Agricultural and Forest Sciences, University of Palermo, Italy.
  • Giuseppe Di Miceli Department of Agricultural and Forest Sciences, University of Palermo, Italy.
  • Alfonso S. Frenda Department of Agricultural and Forest Sciences, University of Palermo, Italy.
  • Antonella Plaia Department of Economics, Business and Statistics, University of Palermo, Italy.
  • Gaetano Amato Department of Agricultural and Forest Sciences, University of Palermo, Italy.

Abstract

Conservation tillage techniques are becoming increasingly popular worldwide as they have the potential to generate environmental, agronomic, and economic benefits. In Mediterranean areas, studies performed on the effects of conservation tillage [in comparison with the conventional tillage technique (CT)] on grain yield of cereal crops have reported contradictory results as well as considerable year-to-year variation, demonstrating how the impact of different soil tillage techniques on crop productivity is strongly site-specific. The present paper summarises the main results from a set of experiments carried out in Sicily during the last 20 years in which we compared no tillage (NT) to CT in terms of their respective effects on the productivity and quality of durum wheat, while at the same time varying some other crop management practices (e.g. crop sequence, N fertilisation, wheat genotype, sowing time). On average, no differences were observed between the two tillage techniques; yields were 3.84 and 3.87 Mg ha–1 for CT and NT, respectively. However, NT guaranteed superior yield when water stress during the crop cycle was high, whereas CT led to higher yields when water availability was adequate. Moreover, the results suggest that the use of NT needs to be accompanied by a rational crop sequence. In fact, a cumulative detrimental effect of NT over time was found for continuous wheat. Finally, grain quality in terms of protein content was slightly higher for CT (15.1%) than NT (14.4%). Thus, when using NT, the rate of nitrogen fertiliser application should be increased to offset this difference.

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Published
2014-01-22
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Original Articles
Keywords:
crop sequence, Durum wheat, Mediterranean environment, no tillage, water stress index.
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How to Cite
Ruisi, P., Giambalvo, D., Saia, S., Di Miceli, G., Frenda, A. S., Plaia, A., & Amato, G. (2014). Conservation tillage in a semiarid Mediterranean environment: results of 20 years of research. Italian Journal of Agronomy, 9(1), 1-7. https://doi.org/10.4081/ija.2014.560