Structure Repair of a Compacted Vertisol with Wet-Dry Cycles and Crops
- U. P. Pillai and
- D. McGarry
We hypothesized that the four rotation crops: wheat (Triticum aestivum L.), sorghum [Sorghum bicolor (L.) Merr.], lablab [Lablab purpureus (L.) Sweet] and mung bean [Vigna radiata (L.) R. Wilczek] differ in their ability to repair soil structure. The study was conducted on a Typic Haplustert, Queensland, Australia, locally termed a Black Earth and considered a prime cropping soil. Large (0.5-m depth by 0.3-m diam.) soil cores, collected from compacted wheel furrows in an irrigated cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.) field, were subjected to three, six, or nine wet-dry cycles that simulated local flood irrigation practices. After each cycle, soil profiles were sampled for clod bulk density, image analysis of soil structure, and evapotranspiration. Generally, all crops improved soil structure over the initial field condition but lablab and mung bean gave improvements to greater depths and more rapidly than wheat and sorghum. Mung bean and lablab caused up to a threefold increase in clod porosity in the 0.1- to 0.4-m soil layer after only three wet-dry cycles, whereas sorghum required nine wet-dry cycles to increase clod porosity in only the 0.2- to 0.3-m layer, and wheat gave no improvement even after nine wet-dry cycles. Image analysis of soil structure showed that lablab and mung bean rapidly (by three wet-dry cycles) produced smaller peds with more interconnected pore space than wheat and sorghum. By nine wet-dry cycles, sorghum achieved deep cracking of the soil but the material between the cracks remained large and dense. Evapotranspiration was double under lablab and mung bean compared with wheat and sorghum. Our results indicate greater cycles of wetting and drying under lablab and mung bean than wheat and sorghum that have led to rapid repair of soil compaction.Please view the pdf by using the Full Text (PDF) link under 'View' to the left.
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