Soil Research Soil Research Society
Soil, land care and environmental research
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Effects of tillage practices on soil and water phosphorus and nitrogen fractions in a Chromosol at Rutherglen in Victoria, Australia

Nicole J. Mathers A B and David M. Nash A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Future Farming Systems Research Division, Department of Primary Industries – Ellinbank Centre, 1301 Hazeldean Rd, Ellinbank, Vic. 3821, Australia.

B Corresponding author. Email: Nicole.Mathers@dpi.vic.gov.au

Australian Journal of Soil Research 47(1) 46-59 https://doi.org/10.1071/SR08106
Submitted: 1 May 2008  Accepted: 2 December 2008   Published: 18 February 2009

Abstract

Phosphorus (P) and nitrogen (N) exports from cropping areas can be greater than those from uncropped areas. Conservation farming methods, involving minimal tillage and full stubble retention, offer significant benefits to grain cropping, but may increase nutrient concentrations in surface (i.e. 0–20 mm) soils, resulting in increased risks of nutrient mobilisation and loss. The effects of tillage and stubble management on soil nutrients that are potentially mobilised into runoff from a long-term trial site at Rutherglen (established in 1981) were investigated. On 2 different sampling dates (February and August 2006) soils from the 0–20, 20–50, and 50–150 mm depths were collected from 3 treatments: conventional cultivation with stubble burning (CCb); direct drill with stubble burning (DDb); and direct drill with stubble retained (DDr). In 2004, the trial was sown with wheat (Triticum aestivum cv. Dollarbird), followed by faba beans in 2005 (Vicia faba L.) and wheat again in 2006. In August 2006, a rainfall simulation experiment was also conducted on these sites.

All nutrient concentrations decreased with depth to 150 mm in all treatments, when both sampling dates were analysed together. This indicated that soil nutrient stratification was occurring in all 3 treatments. The CCb treatment only displayed differences between the 0–20 and 20–50 mm depths for soil organic C and ammonium-N. DDr significantly increased some nutrient concentrations in the 0–20 mm soil depth compared with the CCb treatment, including CaCl2-extractable P (0.76 and 0.50 mg/kg, for DDr and CCb, respectively), total N (1.23 and 1.00 g/kg, for DDr and CCb, respectively), and nitrate-N (12.6 and 8.63 mg/kg, for DDr and CCb, respectively), while the ammonium-N concentration was greater under CCb (9.71 mg/kg) than DDr (6.46 mg/kg). Being water-soluble, CaCl2-extractable P and nitrate-N are more likely be mobilised into streams from the 0–20 mm depth, where they are highly bioavailable and may contribute to increased eutrophication.

Direct drilling with stubble retention contributed a greater proportion of particulate P and N to TP (Total P) and TN (Total N) in surface runoff than either of the burnt systems. Particulate P accounted for 75%, 67%, and 83% of TP in surface runoff from the CCb, DDb, and DDr treatments, respectively. However, the highly bioavailable dissolved reactive P (DRP) was the dominant form of dissolved P, with concentrations exceeding the recommended guidelines of 0.05 mg P/L in the lowlands of south-east Australia. Total N (0.44, 0.68, and 0.73 mg N/L for DDr, DDb, and CCb, respectively) in surface runoff was dominated by nitrate-N and also exceeded current Australian guidelines of 0.5 mg N/L, except for TN from the DDr treatment.

These results would indicate that P, particularly the non-dominant but highly bioavailable form of DRP, exported from these systems is more likely to adversely affect catchment water quality than N exports. The increase in surface runoff volumes and nutrient loads from the CCb treatment observed in this study indicate that DDr systems have increased soil infiltration properties and retained nutrients within the soil–plant system. Therefore, direct drilling with stubble retention in the high rainfall zone cropping areas of north-east Victoria is more likely to retain nutrients on-site and improve soil fertility than burning stubble and cultivating the soil.

Additional keywords: direct drill, stubble retention, conventional cultivation, nutrient export, simulated rainfall.


Acknowledgements

The authors would like to acknowledge the Victorian Department of Primary Industries (DPI) and Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) who together provided funds for this research. The authors would also like to thank Philip Newton, Ken Wilson, Miranda Green, Craig Butler, Mark Agnew, and Philomena Gangaiya for their assistance with data, field sampling and laboratory analysis. Murray Hannah is acknowledged for his help and guidance with statistical analyses and Dr Aldo Bagnara, Dr Roger Armstrong, Dr Kirsten Barlow, Dr Michael Crawford, and several anonymous reviewers are acknowledged for their comments and suggestions on earlier drafts of the manuscript.


References


Ahuja LR, Lehman OR (1983) The extent and nature of rainfall soil interaction in the release of soluble chemicals to runoff. Journal of Environmental Quality 12, 34–40.

Andraski BJ, Daniel TC, Lowery B, Mueller DH (1985a) Runoff results from natural and simulated rainfall for four tillage systems. Transactions of the American Society of Agricultural Engineers 28, 1219–1225.

Andraski BJ, Mueller DH, Daniel TC (1985b) Phosphorus losses in runoff as affected by tillage. Soil Science Society of America Journal 49, 1523–1527.

ANZECC (2000) ‘Australian and New Zealand guidelines for fresh and marine water quality.’ (Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council, Agriculture and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand: Canberra, ACT)

Barlow K, Nash D, Grayson RB (2005) Phosphorus export at the paddock, farm-section, and whole farm scale on an irrigated dairy farm in south-eastern Australia. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 56, 1–9.
CrossRef | CAS |

Biggs BJF, Close ME (1989) Periphyton biomass dynamics in gravel bed rivers: the relative effects of flows and nutrients. Freshwater Biology 22, 209–231.
CrossRef | CAS |

Bloesch PM, Rayment GE (2006) Phosphorus fertility assessment of intensively farmed areas of catchments draining to the Great Barrier Reef world heritage area; 2: Potential of soils to release soluble phosphorus. Communications in Soil Science and Plant Analysis 37, 2265–2276.
CrossRef | CAS |

Buczko U, Kuchenbuch RO (2007) Phosphorus indices as risk-assessment tools in the U.S.A. and Europe—a review. Journal of Plant Nutrition and Soil Science 170, 445–460.
CrossRef | CAS |

Bundy LG, Andraski TW, Powell JM (2001) Management practice effects on phosphorus losses in runoff in corn production systems. Journal of Environmental Quality 30, 1822–1828.
CAS | PubMed |


Bünemann EK, Heenan DP, Marschner P, McNeill AM (2006) Long-term effects of crop rotation, stubble management and tillage on soil phosphorus dynamics. Australian Journal of Soil Research 44, 611–618.
CrossRef |

Carter MR, Mele PM (1992) Changes in microbial biomass and structural stability at the surface of a duplex soil under direct drilling and stubble retention in north-eastern Australia. Australian Journal of Soil Research 30, 493–503.
CrossRef |

Carter MR, Steed GR (1992) The effects of direct drilling and stubble retention on hydraulic properties at the surface of duplex soils in north-eastern Victoria. Australian Journal of Soil Research 30, 505–516.
CrossRef |

Chan KY, Heenan DP, Oates A (2002) Soil carbon fractions and relationship to soil quality under different tillage and stubble management. Soil & Tillage Research 63, 133–139.
CrossRef |

Chan KY, Roberts WP, Heenan DP (1992) Organic carbon and associated soil properties of a red earth after 10 years of rotation under different stubble and tillage practices. Australian Journal of Soil Research 30, 71–83.
CrossRef |

Connolly RD, Freebairn DM, Bridge BJ (1997) Change in infiltration characteristics associated with cultivation history of soils in south-eastern Queensland. Australian Journal of Soil Research 35, 1341–1358.
CrossRef |

Corangamite Catchment Management Authority (2003) ‘Corangamite regional catchment strategy 2003–2008.’ (Corangamite Catchment Management Authority: Colac, Vic.)

Coskan A, Gok M, Dogan K (2007) Effect of wheat stubble burning and tobacco waste application on mineral nitrogen content of soil at different depth. International Journal of Soil Science 2, 55–61.
CAS |


Curtin D, Campbell CA, Jalil A (1998) Effects of acidity on mineralization: pH-dependence of organic matter mineralization in weakly acidic soils. Soil Biology & Biochemistry 30, 57–64.
CrossRef | CAS |

Dalal RC, Mayer RJ (1986) Long-term trends in fertility of soils under continuous cultivation and cereal cropping in southern Queensland. II. Total organic carbon and its rate of loss from the soil profile. Australian Journal of Soil Research 24, 281–292.
CrossRef | CAS |

Dalal RC, Wang W, Robertson GP, Parton WJ (2003) Nitrous oxide emission from Australian agricultural lands and mitigation options: a review. Australian Journal of Soil Research 41, 165–195.
CrossRef | CAS |

Dougherty WJ, Nash DM, Chittleborough DJ, Cox JW, Fleming NK (2006) Stratification, forms and mobility of phosphorus in topsoil of a Chromosol used for dairying. Australian Journal of Soil Research 44, 277–284.
CrossRef | CAS |

Franklin D, Truman C, Potter T, Bosch D, Strickland T, Bednarz C (2007) Nitrogen and phosphorus runoff losses from variable and constant intensity rainfall simulations on loamy sand under conventional and strip tillage systems. Journal of Environmental Quality 36, 846–854.
CrossRef | CAS | PubMed |

Franzluebbers AJ (2002) Soil organic matter stratification ratio as an indicator of soil quality. Soil & Tillage Research 66, 95–106.
CrossRef |

Franzluebbers AJ, Hons FM, Zuberer DA (1995) Tillage and crop effects on seasonal soil carbon and nitrogen dynamics. Soil Science Society of America Journal 59, 1618–1624.
CAS |


Genstat Committee (2005) ‘Genstat for Windows. Release 8.1.’ (VSN International Ltd: Hemel Hempstead, UK)

Haines PJ, Uren NC (1990) Effects of conservation tillage farming on soil microbial biomass, organic matter and earthworm populations, in north-eastern Victoria. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 30, 365–371.
CrossRef |

Heenan DP, Chan KY, Knight PG (2004) Long-term impact of rotation, tillage and stubble management on the loss of soil organic carbon and nitrogen from a Chromic Luvisol. Soil & Tillage Research 76, 59–68.
CrossRef |

Holland JM (2004) The environmental consequences of adopting conservation tillage in Europe: reviewing the evidence. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 103, 1–25.
CrossRef |

Holmes G (2002) ‘Glenelg-Hopkins Catchment Nutrient Management Plan.’ (Glenelg-Hopkins Catchment Management Authority: Hamilton)

Humphry JB, Daniel TC, Edwards DR, Sharpley AN (2002) A portable rainfall simulator for plot-scale runoff studies. Applied Engineering in Agriculture 18, 199–204.

Isbell RF (2002) ‘The Australian Soil Classification.’ (CSIRO Publishing: Collingwood, Vic.)

Kimmell RJ, Pierzynski GM, Janssen KA, Barnes PL (2001) Effects of tillage and phosphorus placement on phosphorus runoff losses in a grain sorghum-soybean rotation. Journal of Environmental Quality 30, 1324–1330.
CAS | PubMed |


Kirkegaard JA (1995) A review of trends in wheat yield responses to conservation cropping in Australia. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 35, 835–848.
CrossRef |

Mathers NJ, Nash D, Gangaiya P (2007) Nitrogen and phosphorus exports from high rainfall zone cropping in Australia: issues and opportunities for research. Journal of Environmental Quality 36, 1551–1562.
CrossRef | CAS | PubMed |

McDowell R, McGregor KC (1984) Plant nutrient losses in runoff from conservation tillage corn. Soil & Tillage Research 4, 79–91.
CrossRef |

McDowell RW, Biggs BJF, Sharpley AN, Nguyen L (2004) Connecting phosphorus loss from agricultural landscapes to surface water quality. Chemistry and Ecology 20, 1–40.
CrossRef | CAS |

McDowell RW, Koopmans GF (2006) Assessing the bioavailability of dissolved organic phosphorus in pasture and cultivated soils treated with different rates of nitrogen fertiliser. Soil Biology & Biochemistry 38, 61–70.
CrossRef | CAS |

McDowell RW, Sharpley AN (2001) Approximating phosphorus release from soils to surface runoff and subsurface drainage. Journal of Environmental Quality 30, 508–520.
CAS | PubMed |


Murphy J, Riley JP (1962) A modified single solution method for the determination of phosphate in natural waters. Analytica Chimica Acta 27, 31–36.
CrossRef | CAS |

Nash DM, Halliwell D (1999) Fertilisers and phosphorus loss from productive grazing systems. Australian Journal of Soil Research 37, 403–429.
CrossRef |

Nash DM , Halliwell D , Cox J (2002) Hydrological mobilisation of pollutants at the slope/field scale. In ‘Agriculture, hydrology and water quality’. (Eds PM Haygarth, SC Jarvis) pp. 225–242. (CABI Publishing: Oxon, UK)

Nash D, Hannah M, Barlow K, Robertson F, Mathers N, Butler C, Horton J (2007a) A comparison of some surface soil phosphorus tests that could be used to assess P export potential. Australian Journal of Soil Research 45, 397–400.
CrossRef | CAS |

Nash DM, Webb B, Hannah M, Adeloju S, Toifl M, Barlow K, Robertson F, Roddick F, Porter N (2007b) Changes in nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations in soil, soil water and surface run-off following grading of irrigation bays used for intensive grazing. Soil Use and Management 23, 374–383.
CrossRef |

Newton PJ (2001) Effect of long-term stubble management on yield and nitrogen-uptake efficiency of wheat topdressed with urea in north-eastern Victoria. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 41, 1167–1178.
CrossRef | CAS |

Northcote KH (1979) ‘A factual key for the recognition of Australian soils.’ (Rellim Technical Publications: Adelaide, S. Aust.)

Peigne J, Ball BC, Roger-Estrade J, David C (2007) Is conservation tillage suitable for organic farming? A review. Soil Use and Management 23, 129–144.
CrossRef |

Penn CJ, Mullins GL, Zelazny LW, Sharpley AN (2006) Estimating dissolved phosphorus concentrations in runoff from three physiographic regions of Virginia. Soil Science Society of America Journal 70, 1967–1974.
CrossRef | CAS |

Peters RH (1981) Phosphorus availability in Lake Memphremagog and its tributaries. Limnology and Oceanography 26, 1150–1161.
CAS |


Pocknee S, Sumner ME (1997) Cation and nitrogen contents of organic matter determine its soil liming potential. Soil Science Society of America Journal 61, 86–92.
CAS |


Poole ML, Turner NC, Young JM (2002) Sustainable cropping systems for high rainfall areas of southwestern Australia. Agricultural Water Management 53, 201–211.
CrossRef |

Powlson DS, Brookes PC, Christensen BT (1987) Measurement of soil microbial biomass provides an early indication of changes in total soil organic matter due to straw incorporation. Soil Biology & Biochemistry 19, 159–164.
CrossRef | CAS |

Rayment GE , Higginson FR (1992) ‘Australian laboratory handbook of soil and water chemical methods.’ (Inkata Press: Melbourne, Vic.)

Reeves TG, Ellington A, Brooke HD (1984) Effects of lupin-wheat rotations on soil fertility, crop disease and crop yields. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture and Animal Husbandry 24, 595–600.
CrossRef |

Richardson CW, King KW (1995) Erosion and nutrient loss from zero tillage on a clay soil. Journal of Agricultural Engineering Research 61, 81–86.
CrossRef |

Robertson FA, Nash DM (2008) Phosphorus and nitrogen in soil, plants, and overland flow from sheep-grazed pastures fertilized with different rates of superphosphate. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 126, 195–208.
CrossRef | CAS |

Schofield RK (1955) Can a precise meaning be given to “available” soil phosphorus? Soils and Fertilizers 18, 373–375.

Schreiber JD (1999) Nutrient leaching from corn residues under simulated rainfall. Journal of Environmental Quality 28, 1864–1870.
CAS |


Sharpley AN (1995) Dependence of runoff phosphorus on extractable soil phosphorus. Journal of Environmental Quality 24, 920–927.
CAS |


Sharpley AN (2003) Soil mixing to decrease surface stratification of phosphorus in manured soils. Journal of Environmental Quality 32, 1375–1384.
CAS | PubMed |


Sharpley AN, Daniel TC, Edwards DR (1993) Phosphorus movement in the landscape. Journal of Productive Agriculture 6, 492–499.

Sharpley AN, Kleinman P (2003) Effect of rainfall simulator and plot scale on overland flow and phosphorus transport. Journal of Environmental Quality 32, 2172–2179.
CAS | PubMed |


Sharpley AN, Menzel RG (1987) The impact of soil and fertilizer phosphorus on the environment. Advances in Agronomy 41, 297–324.
CrossRef | CAS |

Sharpley AN, Smith SJ (1994) Wheat tillage and water quality in the Southern Plains. Soil & Tillage Research 30, 33–48.
CrossRef |

Sharpley AN, Smith SJ, Jones OR, Berg WA, Coleman GA (1992) The transport of bioavailable phosphorus in agricultural runoff. Journal of Environmental Quality 21, 30–35.
CAS |


Soil Survey Staff (2006) ‘Keys to Soil Taxonomy.’ (United States Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Services: Washington, DC)

The State of Victoria (2002) ‘The health of our catchments: A Victorian report card.’ (The State of Victoria, Victorian Catchment Management Council: Melbourne, Vic.)

Tian YQ, Yin B, Yang L, Yin S, Zhu Z (2007) Nitrogen runoff and leaching losses during rice-wheat rotations in Taihu Lake Region, China. Pedosphere 17, 445–456.
CrossRef | CAS |

Toifl M, Nash D, Roddick F, Porter N (2003) Effect of centrifuge conditions on water and total dissolved phosphorus extraction from rewet and field wet soils. Australian Journal of Soil Research 41, 1533–1542.
CrossRef | CAS |

Vogeler I, Horn R, Wetzel H, Krummelbein J (2006) Tillage effects on soil strength and solute transport. Soil & Tillage Research 88, 193–204.
CrossRef |

Whitbread A, Blair G, Lefroy R (2000) Managing legume leys, residues and fertilisers to enhance the sustainability of wheat cropping systems in Australia. 1. The effects on wheat yields and nutrient balances. Soil & Tillage Research 54, 63–75.
CrossRef |

Wright AL, Dou F, Hons FM (2007) Soil organic C and N distribution for wheat cropping systems after 20 years of conservation tillage in central Texas. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 121, 376–382.
CrossRef | CAS |

Zhang GS, Chan KY, Oates A, Heenan DP, Huang GB (2007) Relationship between soil structure and runoff/soil loss after 24 years of conservation tillage. Soil & Tillage Research 92, 122–128.
CrossRef |

Zhang H, Schroder JL, Davis RL, Wang JJ, Payton ME, Thomason WE, Tang Y, Raun WR (2006a) Phosphorus loss in runoff from long-term continuous wheat fertility trials. Soil Science Society of America Journal 70, 163–171.
CrossRef | CAS |

Zhang H, Turner NC, Poole ML, Simpson N (2006b) Crop production in the high rainfall zones of southern Australia — potential, constraints and opportunities. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 46, 1035–1049.
CrossRef |








Rent Article (via Deepdyve) Export Citation Cited By (12)