Soil water repellency influences maize yield by changing soil water availability under long-term tillage management
Abstract. Drought is increasingly common due to frequent occurrences of extreme weather events, which further increases soil water repellency (SWR) and influences grain yield. Conservation agriculture is playing a vital role in attaining high food security and it could also increase SWR. However, the relationship between SWR and grain yield under conservation agriculture is still not fully understood. We studied the impact of SWR in 0–5 cm, 5–10 cm, and 10–20 cm layers during three growth periods on grain yield from a soil water availability perspective using a long-term field experiment. In particular, we assessed the effect of SWR on soil water content under two rainfall events with different rainfall intensities. Three treatments were conducted: conventional tillage (CT), reduced tillage (RT), and no-tillage (NT). The results showed that the water repellency index (RI) of NT and RT treatments in 0–20 cm layers was increased by 12.9 %–39.9 % and 5.7 %–18.2 % compared to CT treatment during the three growth periods, respectively. The effect of the RI on soil water content became more obvious with the decrease in soil moisture following rainfall, which was also influenced by rainfall intensity. The RI played a prominent role in increasing soil water storage during the three growth periods compared to the soil total porosity, penetration resistance, mean weight diameter, and organic carbon content. Furthermore, although the increment in the RI under NT treatment increased the soil water storage, grain yield was not influenced by RI (p > 0.05) because the grain yield under NT treatment was mainly driven by penetration resistance and least limiting water range (LLWR). The higher water sorptivity increased LLWR and water use efficiency, which further increased the grain yield under RT treatment. Overall, SWR, which was characterized by water sorptivity and RI, had the potential to influence grain yield by changing soil water availability (e.g. LLWR and soil water storage) and RT treatment was the most effective tillage management compared to CT and NT treatments in improving grain yield.
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