Special Issue "Management of Soil Constraints to Improve Crop Performance in Water-Limited Environments"

A special issue of Agronomy (ISSN 2073-4395). This special issue belongs to the section "Farming Sustainability".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 March 2021).

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Geoff Anderson
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Government of Western Australia, 75 York Road, Northam, WA 6401, Australia
Interests: managing water repellency; soil aluminium toxicity; soil acidity and nutrient deficiencies (sulfur, nitrogen and phosphorus)
Dr. Ed Barrett-Lennard
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, 3 Baron-Hay Court South Perth WA 6151, Australia
Interests: agricultural research and development; plant physiology; wheat; barley; saltbush; salinity; drought; waterlogging

Special Issue Information

Dear colleagues,

Management of soil constraints to improve crop performance in water-limited environments is the key to maintaining profitable and sustainable agriculture systems. Soil constraints include soil water repellency, soil aluminium toxicity or soil acidity, soil compaction (natural and induced), salinity, sodicity, boron toxicity and nutrient deficiencies. Soil water repellence affects crop establishment, especially when there is low and variable rainfall at the start of the growing season resulting in poor crop establishment. Subsoil aluminium toxicity, soil compaction, salinity, sodicity, boron toxicity and some nutrient deficiencies reduce root growth, thus limiting the ability of the crop to access water and nutrients. In soils amended to overcome constraints, it is important to adjust nutrient management practices to take advantage of improvements in nutrient use efficiencies and to address higher nutrient demand due to greater crop yield. Management practices are designed to overcome these soil constraint to crop production (grain yield) in water-limited environments where low and variable growing season rainfall has become more prevalent in recent years due to climate change.

This Special Issue aims to publish innovative studies demonstrating that managing soils with single or multiple constraints can increase the profitability and sustainability of the agricultural system in water-limited environments. We would like to invite you to contribute to this Special Issue by submitting reviews, case studies, research papers, and opinion articles on innovative approaches for overcoming soil constraints for crop production in water-limited environments. Manuscripts are invited from studies conducted on all water-limited environments, but especially from the rainfed cropping areas of the mediterranean and semi-arid tropical climates.

Dr. Geoff Anderson
Dr. Ed Barrett-Lennard
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Agronomy is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • water limited-environments
  • water-limited yield potential
  • root growth
  • climate change
  • climate variability
  • weather/rainfall prediction
  • drought
  • soil constraints
  • root depth
  • water repellency
  • aluminium toxicity or soil acidity
  • salinity
  • soil compaction
  • nutrient management
  • deep tillage
  • deep ripping
  • subsoil amendment
  • mediterranean climate
  • semi-arid tropics
  • water use efficiency
  • nutrient use efficiency
  • sodicity
  • boron toxicity

Published Papers (6 papers)

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Research

Article
Dissection of the Contributing Factors to the Variable Response of Crop Yield to Surface Applied Lime in Australia
Agronomy 2021, 11(5), 829; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy11050829 - 23 Apr 2021
Viewed by 296
Abstract
Modern agricultural farming systems acidify the soil profile due to application of fertilisers with acidifying properties. In most parts of Australia, lime has been used to improve agricultural soil conditions and restore its productive potential. The observed response of crop yield to applied [...] Read more.
Modern agricultural farming systems acidify the soil profile due to application of fertilisers with acidifying properties. In most parts of Australia, lime has been used to improve agricultural soil conditions and restore its productive potential. The observed response of crop yield to applied lime often varies with soil type, acidity profile and seasonal conditions, so it is difficult to specify the expected yield response in a given situation. We conducted a meta-analysis of 86 agricultural field trials from Western Australia (WA), New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria (VIC) where various rates of lime had been applied to the soil surface and crop yield (wheat, barley, canola, lupin or field pea) measured for a number of years after the initial application. Information from the meta-analysis was then paired with output from a crop simulation model, where the water-limited yield potential was estimated for both a neutral and acidified soil profile. The average increase in yield to applied lime across all locations and crops was 12%, but the response ranged from 0 to 185%. A trend was observed, where sites with topsoil pH (CaCl2) < 5 and subsoil pH < 4.5 had the greater benefit to liming. Soil type had little effect on the percentage yield increase. Overall, responses to applied lime were most likely when the yield of the trial site was at 50% of water-limited yield potential (or less), the quantity of lime applied was greater than 2.5 t ha−1 and the time since lime had been applied was greater than three years (with the maximum response occurring from four and sometimes up to eight years after liming). Therefore, soil pH measurements, combined with an assessment of actual yield relative to potential yield, provide the best guide to the response to surface applied lime and this response is likely to take more than four years to be realised. Full article
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Article
Short- and Long-Term Effects of Lime and Gypsum Applications on Acid Soils in a Water-Limited Environment: 3. Soil Solution Chemistry
Agronomy 2021, 11(5), 826; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy11050826 - 22 Apr 2021
Viewed by 577
Abstract
Aluminum (Al) toxicity imposes a significant limitation to crop production in South Western Australia. This paper examines the impact of surface-applied lime and gypsum on soil solution chemistry in the short term (1 year) and the long-term (10 years) in water limited environments. [...] Read more.
Aluminum (Al) toxicity imposes a significant limitation to crop production in South Western Australia. This paper examines the impact of surface-applied lime and gypsum on soil solution chemistry in the short term (1 year) and the long-term (10 years) in water limited environments. In the experiments, we measured soil solution chemistry using a paste extract on soil profile samples collected to a depth of 50 cm. We then used the chemical equilibrium model MINTEQ to predict the presence and relative concentrations of Al species that are toxic to root growth (Al associated with Al3+ and AlOH2 or Toxic-Al) and less non-toxic forms of Al bound with sulfate, other hydroxide species and organic matter. A feature of the soils used in the experiment is that they have a low capacity to adsorb sulfate. In the short term, despite the low amount of rainfall (279 mm), sulfate derived from the surface gypsum application is rapidly leached into the soil profile. There was no self-liming effect, as evidenced by there being no change in soil solution pH. The application of gypsum, in the short term, increased soil solution ionic strength by 524–681% in the 0–10 cm soil layer declining to 75–109% in the 30–40 cm soil layer due to an increase in soil solution sulfate and calcium concentrations. Calcium from the gypsum application displaces Al from the exchange sites to increase soil solution Al activity in the gypsum treatments by 155–233% in the short term and by 70–196% in the long term to a depth of 40 cm. However, there was no effect on Toxic-Al due to Al sulfate precipitation. In the long term, sulfate leaching from the soil profile results in a decline in soil solution ionic strength. Application of lime results in leaching of alkalinity into the soil profile leading to a decreased Toxic-Al to a depth of 30 cm in the long term, but it did not affect Toxic-Al in the short term. Combining an application of lime with gypsum had the same impact on soil solution properties as gypsum alone in the short term and as lime alone in the long term. Full article
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Article
Micro-Water Harvesting and Soil Amendment Increase Grain Yields of Barley on a Heavy-Textured Alkaline Sodic Soil in a Rainfed Mediterranean Environment
Agronomy 2021, 11(4), 713; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy11040713 - 08 Apr 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 372
Abstract
This paper focuses on the adverse effects of soil sodicity and alkalinity on the growth of barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) in a rainfed environment in south-western Australia. These conditions cause the accumulation of salt (called ‘transient salinity’) in the root zone, which [...] Read more.
This paper focuses on the adverse effects of soil sodicity and alkalinity on the growth of barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) in a rainfed environment in south-western Australia. These conditions cause the accumulation of salt (called ‘transient salinity’) in the root zone, which decreases the solute potential of the soil solution, particularly at the end of the growing season as the soil dries. We hypothesized that two approaches could help overcome this stress: (a) improved micro-water harvesting at the soil surface, which would help maintain soil hydration, decreasing the salinity of the soil solution, and (b) soil amelioration using small amounts of gypsum, elemental sulfur or gypsum plus elemental sulfur, which would ensure greater salt leaching. In our experiments, improved micro-water harvesting was achieved using a tillage technique consisting of exaggerated mounds between furrows and the covering of these mounds with plastic sheeting. The combination of the mounds and the application of a low rate of gypsum in the furrow (50 kg ha−1) increased yields of barley grain by 70% in 2019 and by 57% in 2020, relative to a control treatment with conventional tillage, no plastic sheeting and no amendment. These increases in yield were related to changes in ion concentrations in the soil and to changes in apparent electrical conductivity measured with the EM38. Full article
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Article
Short- and Long-Term Effects of Lime and Gypsum Applications on Acid Soils in a Water-Limited Environment: 2. Soil Chemical Properties
Agronomy 2020, 10(12), 1987; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy10121987 - 17 Dec 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1110
Abstract
Soil acidity or aluminum (Al) toxicity is a major limitation to crop production. In this paper, we examine the effects of surface-applied lime and gypsum on soil profile chemical properties that affect Al toxicity in short-term (1 year), medium-term (2 years and 8 [...] Read more.
Soil acidity or aluminum (Al) toxicity is a major limitation to crop production. In this paper, we examine the effects of surface-applied lime and gypsum on soil profile chemical properties that affect Al toxicity in short-term (1 year), medium-term (2 years and 8 months) and long-term (10 years) experiments. Sulfate applied to the soil surface as gypsum was leached rapidly to a depth of 40 cm in the short-term despite relatively low amounts (279 mm) of rainfall. In the medium and long-term experiments, 28–54% of the sulfate applied as gypsum was retained in the 0–50 cm soil layer due to adsorption and precipitation reactions. The combined application of lime and gypsum increased soil calcium, to a depth of 30 cm in the short-term and to a depth of 50 cm in the medium and long-terms. Increases in soil sulfate and calcium were associated with greater electrical conductivity to a depth of 50 cm for all sampling times. Application of lime alone had no impact on soil Al, pH, and calcium in the soil layers below 10 cm in the short and medium terms. In the long-term, increasing the rate of lime application from 2 to 8 t L ha−1 increased soil pH in the 10–20 cm soil layer while soil Al decreased to a depth of 30 cm. The combined use of lime and gypsum decreased soil Al in the 30–50 cm soil layer in the medium-term and the 20–30 cm soil layer in the long-term which was more than when only lime was applied. Hence, we recommend the use of lime plus gypsum for treating soils with subsoil Al toxicity. Additionally, soil Al measurements are a more sensitive measurement of the impact of surface application lime and lime plus gypsum than soil pH. Full article
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Article
Soil Management Systems to Overcome Multiple Constraints for Dryland Crops on Deep Sands in a Water Limited Environment on the South Coast of Western Australia
Agronomy 2020, 10(12), 1881; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy10121881 - 27 Nov 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 603
Abstract
Deep sands on the south coast sandplain of Western Australia (WA) have multiple soil constraints including water repellence, high soil strength, low nutrient levels and subsoil acidity. The aim of the study was to test contrasting methods of managing water repellence and to [...] Read more.
Deep sands on the south coast sandplain of Western Australia (WA) have multiple soil constraints including water repellence, high soil strength, low nutrient levels and subsoil acidity. The aim of the study was to test contrasting methods of managing water repellence and to assess their impacts on one or more soil constraints to crop production. These methods included seeding tyne design (knife point, winged points, paired row), soil wetting agent addition, strategic inversion tillage (rotary spading, mouldboard ploughing to 0.35 m) and clay-rich subsoil addition (170 t ha−1 with incorporation by spading to 0.20 or 0.35 m). Limesand (2 t ha−1) was applied as a split plot treatment prior to tillage. Cumulative crop yields were increased by 2.1–2.6 t ha−1 over five years by the strategic deep tillage and clay application treatments compared to the control. Water repellence was reduced by the inversion ploughing and subsoil clay addition treatments only. The effect of water repellence on crop establishment was expressed only in low rainfall years (Decile < 4) and mitigated by the paired row, wetting agent, spader and clay-amended treatments. In all years, plant numbers were adequate to achieve yield potential regardless of treatment. Soil K and plant tissue K and B were increased where clay had been applied. Inversion tillage reduced soil pH, organic carbon (OC) and macro nutrients in the 0–0.1 m layer although in most years there was no significant decline in plant tissue macro nutrient levels. Soil strength was reduced as a result of the inversion tillage to a depth of 0.35 m. However, the alleviation of soil strength and the crop yield responses diminished with time due to re-compaction. No crop response to the applied lime was found over five years at this site since the soil pHCaCl2 exceeded 4.7 within the root zone. In terms of soil constraints, we conclude that compaction was the dominant constraint at this site followed by water repellence and K deficiency. Full article
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Article
Short- and Long-Term Effects of Lime and Gypsum Applications on Acid Soils in a Water-Limited Environment: 1. Grain Yield Response and Nutrient Concentration
Agronomy 2020, 10(8), 1213; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy10081213 - 18 Aug 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 977
Abstract
Surface (0–10 cm) and subsoil (soil layers below 10 cm) acidity and resulting aluminum (Al) toxicity reduce crop grain yields. In South Western Australia (SWA), these constraints affect 14.2 million hectares or 53% of the agricultural area. Both lime (L, CaCO3) [...] Read more.
Surface (0–10 cm) and subsoil (soil layers below 10 cm) acidity and resulting aluminum (Al) toxicity reduce crop grain yields. In South Western Australia (SWA), these constraints affect 14.2 million hectares or 53% of the agricultural area. Both lime (L, CaCO3) and gypsum (G, CaSO4) application can decrease the toxic effect of Al, leading to an increase in crop grain yields. Within the region, it is unclear if G alone or the combined use of L and G has a role in alleviating soil acidity in SWA, due to low sulfate S (SO4–S) sorption properties of the soil. We present results from three experiments located in the eastern wheatbelt of SWA, which examined the short-term (ST, 2 growing seasons), medium-term (MT, 3 growing seasons), and long-term (LT, 7 growing seasons over 10 years) effects of L and G on grain yield and plant nutrient concentrations. Despite the rapid leaching of SO4–S and no self-liming impact, it was profitable to apply G, due to the significant ST grain yield responses. The grain yield response to G developed even following relatively dry years, but declined over time due to SO4–S leaching. At the LT experimental site had received no previous L application, whereas, at the ST and MT sites, L had been applied by the grower over the previous 5–10 years. For the LT site, the most profitable treatment for wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) grain yield, was the combined application of 4 t L ha−1 with 2 t G ha−1. At this site, the 0–10 cm soil pHCaCl2 was 4.6, and AlCaCl2 was greater than 2.5 mg kg−1 in the 10–30 cm soil layer. In contrast, at the ST and MT sites, the pHCaCl2 of 0–10 cm soil layer was ≥5.5; it was only profitable to apply G to the MT site where the soil compaction constraint had been removed by deep ripping. The use of L increases soil pHCaCl2, resulting in the improved availability of anions, phosphorus (P) in the LT and molybdenum (Mo) at all sampling times, but reduced availability of cations zinc (Zn) in the LT and manganese (Mn) at all sampling. The application of G reduced Mo concentrations, due to the high SO4–S content of the soil. Full article
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