Effect of artificial wind shelters on the growth and yield of rainfed crops
R. A. Sudmeyer, M. C. Crawford, H. Meinke, P. L. Poulton and M. J. Robertson
Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture
42(6) 841 - 858
Published: 15 October 2002
There is great interest in quantifying and understanding how shelter modifies crop growth and development under Australian conditions. Small constructed enclosures (shelters) can consistently reduce wind speed, allowing experiments to be run with replicated sheltered and unsheltered treatments in close proximity. The aim of this study was to quantify the effect on microclimate of consistently reducing wind speed by 70% and explain the consequences for dryland wheat (Triticum aestivum), lupin (Lupinus angustifolius) and mungbean (Vigna radiata) growth and development, at sites in Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia. Crops were grown inside and outside of artificial shelters, 10 by 10 m and extending 1 m above the crop canopy throughout the growing season.
Mean daily air and soil temperatures and atmospheric vapour pressure inside the shelters were largely similar to unsheltered conditions. However, clear diurnal trends were evident; daily maximum temperature and vapour pressure deficit (VPD) were increased in shelter when crops were establishing or senescing. When leaf area index (LAI) was reduced in the shelters, soil temperature was greater than in the open, however when LAI was increased in the shelters, soil temperature was less than in the open.
Grain yield in shelters ranged between 78 and 120% of unsheltered yield, depending on seasonal conditions and crop species; the mean yield for all sites, crops and years was 99% of unsheltered yield. In the absence of waterlogging, sheltered crops tended to develop more leaf area than unsheltered crops, with an increase in the ratio of leaf area to above-ground biomass. This greater leaf area did not increase soil water use. While LAI was increased by shelter, only 2 of the 6 sheltered crops that were not waterlogged yielded significantly more grain than the unsheltered crops. This may be because the sheltered crops experienced greater maximum temperatures and VPD during anthesis and grain filling than unsheltered crops. Also, net photosynthesis may not have increased in the shelters after canopy closure (LAI>3–4). Lupins, which developed more leaf area inside shelters, may have experienced strong competition for assimilates between developing branches, flowers and fruit. When rainfall was above average and the soil became waterlogged for part of the growing season, grain yield was reduced inside the shelters. Reduced evaporation inside the shelters may have extended the duration and severity of waterlogging and increased stresses on sheltered plants when potential yield was being set.
The reductions in wind speed achieved inside the artificial shelters were greater than those likely in conventional tree windbreak systems. Analysis of crop growth illustrated that microclimate modification at this high level of shelter can be both beneficial and harmful, depending on the crop species and climatic conditions during the growing season.Keywords: lupins, mungbeans, wheat, windbreak.
Full text doi:10.1071/EA02018
© CSIRO 2002