Effect of irrigation on soil oxygen status and root and shoot growth of wheat in a clay soil
WS Meyer, HD Barrs, RCG Smith, NS White, AD Heritage and DL Short
Australian Journal of Agricultural Research
36(2) 171 - 185
Two watering treatments (flood and control) were applied to undisturbed (bulk density ±? 1.6 mg mm-3 ) and repacked ±? 1.2 mg mm-3 ) cylinders of Marah clay loam. The cylinders (0.75 m o.d. by 1.4 m deep) were housed in a lysimeter facility. Wheat (cv. Egret) was grown in the cylinders and the soil was either kept well watered with frequent small amounts of water (control treatment) or subjected to three separate periods, ranging from 4 to 72 h, of surface inundation (flood treatment). The greater pore space and better drainage of the repacked soil ensured that its average level of soil oxygen (O2) was about three times that of the undisturbed soil. Nevertheless, inundation of the soil surface for either 48 or 72 h rapidly decreased soil O2 levels in both soils. Root growth in these soils appeared to be slowed when soil O2 levels became less than 15% of the maximum that would occur in dry, aerated soil. Root growth ceased in both repacked and undisturbed soil cores after a 48-h flooding, when the soil O2 status was probably < 10% of the maximum. Root growth was greatest in the repacked soil with controlled water additions. The ranking of treatments, by either root intercept counts or O2 status, were the same. Leaf and stem growth were not very sensitive to the root zone conditions, but this may have been due to the advanced stage of plant growth when the treatments were applied and to the generally low nitrogen status of all treatment plants. There was a 44% reduction in yield from the best to the worst aerated soil treatment. The data show that if soil O2 levels become low as the result of flooding, root growth of wheat will stop and grain yield will be substantially decreased. Greatly improved aeration of these fine-textured soils is only possible if both the internal drainage properties of the soil are improved and prolonged periods of surface inundation are avoided.
Full text doi:10.1071/AR9850171
© CSIRO 1985