Special Issue "Soil Tillage Systems and Conservative Agriculture"

A special issue of Land (ISSN 2073-445X).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (25 December 2020).

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Dr. Teodor Rusu
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Faculty of Agriculture, University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine of Cluj-Napoca, 400372 Cluj-Napoca, Romania
Interests: soil science, experimental technique in agriculture; conservative agriculture; climate change and rural development; pedo-amelioration and soil erosion control studies; Analysis of variance (ANOVA); anti-erosion systems; carbon sequestration
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Conservative agriculture involves achieving productivity equal to or close to conventional agriculture, with optimized energy and economic efficiency, while reducing the impact on the environment, especially reducing soil degradation and erosion.

Conservative agriculture includes a series of complementary agricultural practices: (i) minimal soil disturbance (direct sowing) to conserve soil structure, fauna, and organic matter; (ii) permanent soil cover (cover crops, residues, and mulch) to protect the soil and contribute to weed removal; (iii) various crop rotations and combinations, which stimulate soil microorganisms and control pests, weeds and plant diseases.

The reasons for practicing conservative agriculture are as follows: agrotechnics (drought control, soil erosion control, and adapting to climate change), economic (efficiency), environmental protection (soil ecological), and compatibility with the Conservative Agricultural Policies. In the conventional agriculture system, 50–60% of the quantities of water from precipitates during a year are lost by direct evaporation – hence, the agrophytotechnical measures of water conservation are required. These can be achieved through conservative agriculture, based on soil protection and its tillage so that the vegetal remains on the surface, ensuring "the right of the soil to vegetation".

The scientific criteria for the extension of sustainable alternative soil tillage (minimum tillage, no-tillage etc.) are considered the 10 benefits obtained by applying them: the time of soil tillage is reduced by 2–4 times; fuel consumption per unit area is reduced by 30–50%; the need for agricultural machinery at the surface unit is reduced; the structure of the soil is restored and the compaction of the surface and depth is diminished; increases the organic matter content of the soil; increases soil permeability for water and improves overall soil drainage; soil erosion is reduced; vegetal debris remaining at the surface of the soil or incorporated at 10–15 cm depth (where biological activity is maximum) contributes to the growth of soil fauna and flora; maintains the quality of groundwater and surface water (the nutrients and pesticides applied are no longer washed by erosion, and the more intense biological activity – associated with the organic matter in the soil – uses and decomposes these inputs); maintains air quality by reducing emissions from the burning of fossil fuels (diesel) used in road traffic and by reducing the carbon removed in the atmosphere through soil respiration (being fixed by increasing soil organic matter).

Requirements and challenges of transition to conservation agriculture systems are diverse: initial investment in specialized equipment; specialized consulting services; in comparison with conventional agriculture, a fundamental change of approach (difficult plug separation) is required; normally, a transition period of 5–7 years is needed for the conservative agriculture system to be balanced; productivity may be lower in the early years, and the onslaught of diseases, pests, and outbreaks may be higher; in some areas, the large quantity of plant residues can be a disadvantage, the solutions for their quicker decomposition being decisive for the success of the applied agrotechnics.

This Special Issue " Soil Tillage Systems and Conservative Agriculture" will publish the results of the research or personal contributions of reviewers in the field of soil tillage systems (minimum tillage, no-tillage, etc.) – soil protection – crop rotation in the current context of conservative agriculture.

In this Special Issue, we seek scientifically sound manuscripts with relevance in at least one of the following topics: (1) Soil tillage for agricultural sustainability; (2) influence of soil tillage system on productivity, energy efficiency, and economics; (3) tillage system impacts on environmental quality and soil parameters; (4) advantages and disadvantages of soil tillage systems; (5) technological differentiations in the application of different soil tillage systems.

Prof. Dr. Teodor Rusu
Guest Editor

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. Land 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

  • conservative agriculture
  • mulch – crop rotation – soil tillage system
  • minimum tillage
  • no-tillage
  • soil and water conservation – efficiency – productivity

Published Papers (10 papers)

Order results
Result details
Select all
Export citation of selected articles as:

Research

Article
Effect of Previous Crop Roots on Soil Compaction in 2 Yr Rotations under a No-Tillage System
Land 2021, 10(2), 202; https://doi.org/10.3390/land10020202 - 17 Feb 2021
Viewed by 476
Abstract
Compacted soils affect global crop productivity and environmental quality. A field study was conducted from 2014 to 2020 in the northern Great Plains, USA, to evaluate the effect of various rooting systems on soil compaction in 2 yr rotations of camelina (Camelina [...] Read more.
Compacted soils affect global crop productivity and environmental quality. A field study was conducted from 2014 to 2020 in the northern Great Plains, USA, to evaluate the effect of various rooting systems on soil compaction in 2 yr rotations of camelina (Camelina sativa L.), carinata (Brassica carinata A.) and a cover crop mix planted in place of fallow with durum (Triticum durum D.). The study was designed as a randomized complete block with three replications in a no-tillage system. The soil was classified as Dooley sandy loam (fine-loamy, mixed, superactive, frigid Typic Argiustolls) derived from glacial till parent material. Three measurements of soil penetration resistance (PR) were taken with a penetrometer to a depth of 0–30 cm within each plot. Soil moisture contents were determined using a TDR sensor at the time of PR measurements. Both measurements were monitored prior to planting in spring and after harvest. Initial PR results from spring 2014 showed that all plots had an average of 2.244 MPa between the 8–20 cm depth, due to a history of tillage and wheel traffic caused by various field activities. Covariance analysis indicated that soil PR was not significantly affected by crop type and moisture content. After one cycle of the 2 yr rotation, the 2016 measurements indicated that the compacted layer existed at the same initial depths. However, after two and three cycles, soil PR values were reduced to 1.480, 1.812, 1.775, 1.645 MPa in spring 2018 and 1.568, 1.581, 1.476, 1.458 MPa in 2020 under camelina, carinata, cover crop mix, and durum treatments, respectively. These findings indicate that previous cover crop roots could effectively improve soil compaction by penetrating the compacted layer, decompose over time and form voids and root channels. Although these results are novel and significant, further research is needed on different soils and under cover crops with different root systems to support our findings prior to making any conclusion. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soil Tillage Systems and Conservative Agriculture)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
The Effects of Management (Tillage, Fertilization, Plant Density) on Soybean Yield and Quality in a Three-Year Experiment under Transylvanian Plain Climate Conditions
Land 2021, 10(2), 200; https://doi.org/10.3390/land10020200 - 16 Feb 2021
Viewed by 526
Abstract
The regional agroecological conditions, specific to the Transylvanian Plain, are favorable to soybean crops, but microclimate changes related to global warming have imposed the need for agrotechnical adaptive measures in order to maintain the level of soybean yield. In this study, we consider [...] Read more.
The regional agroecological conditions, specific to the Transylvanian Plain, are favorable to soybean crops, but microclimate changes related to global warming have imposed the need for agrotechnical adaptive measures in order to maintain the level of soybean yield. In this study, we consider the effect of two soil tillage systems, the seeding rate, as well as the fertilizer dosage and time of application on the yield and quality of soybean crops. A multifactorial experiment was carried out through the A × B × C × D − R: 3 × 2 × 3 × 3 − 2 formula, where A represents the year (a1, 2017; a2, 2018; and a3, 2019); B represents the soil tillage system (b1, conventional tillage with mouldboard plough; b2, reduced tillage with chisel cultivator); C represents the fertilizer variants (c1, unfertilized; c2, one single rate of fertilization: 40 kg ha−1 of nitrogen + 40 kg ha−1 of phosphorus; and c3, two rates of fertilization: 40 kg ha−1 of nitrogen + 40 kg ha−1 of phosphorus (at sowing) + 46 kg ha−1 of nitrogen at V3 stage); D represents the seeding rate (1 = 45 germinating grains (gg) m−2; d2 = 55 gg m−2; and d3 = 65 gg m−2); and R represents the replicates (r1 = the first and r2 = the second). Tillage had no effect, the climate specific of the years and fertilization affected the yield and the quality parameters. Regarding the soybean yield, it reacted favorably to a higher seeding rate (55–65 gg m−2) and two rates of fertilization. The qualitative characteristics of soybeans are affected by the fertilization rates applied to the crop, which influence the protein and fiber content in the soybean grains. Higher values of protein content were recorded with a reduced tillage system, i.e., 38.90 g kg−1 DM in the variant with one single rate of fertilization at a seeding rate of 45 gg per m−2 and 38.72 g kg−1 DM in the variant with two fertilizations at a seeding rate of 65 gg m−2. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soil Tillage Systems and Conservative Agriculture)
Article
Soil Tillage and Crop Growth Effects on Surface and Subsurface Runoff, Loss of Soil, Phosphorus and Nitrogen in a Cold Climate
Land 2021, 10(1), 77; https://doi.org/10.3390/land10010077 - 15 Jan 2021
Viewed by 590
Abstract
Most studies on the effects of tillage operations documented the effects of tillage on losses through surface runoff. On flat areas, the subsurface runoff is the dominating pathway for water, soil and nutrients. This study presents results from a five-year plot study on [...] Read more.
Most studies on the effects of tillage operations documented the effects of tillage on losses through surface runoff. On flat areas, the subsurface runoff is the dominating pathway for water, soil and nutrients. This study presents results from a five-year plot study on a flat area measuring surface and subsurface runoff losses. The treatments compared were (A) autumn ploughing with oats, (B) autumn ploughing with winter wheat and (C) spring ploughing with spring barley (n = 3). The results showed that subsurface runoff was the main source for soil (67%), total phosphorus (76%), dissolved reactive phosphorus (75%) and total nitrogen (89%) losses. Through the subsurface pathway, the lowest soil losses occurred from the spring ploughed plots. Losses of total phosphorus through subsurface runoff were also lower from spring ploughing compared to autumn ploughing. Total nitrogen losses were higher from autumn ploughing compared to other treatments. Losses of total nitrogen were more influenced by autumn ploughing than by a nitrogen surplus in production. Single extreme weather events, like the summer drought in 2018 and high precipitation in October 2014 were crucial to the annual soil and nutrient losses. Considering extreme weather events in agricultural management is a necessary prerequisite for successful mitigation of soil and nutrient losses in the future. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soil Tillage Systems and Conservative Agriculture)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Does Minimum Tillage Improve Smallholder Farmers’ Welfare? Evidence from Southern Tanzania
Land 2020, 9(12), 513; https://doi.org/10.3390/land9120513 - 11 Dec 2020
Viewed by 535
Abstract
Conservation agriculture continues to be promoted in developing nations as a sustainable and suitable agricultural practice to enhance smallholder productivity. A look at the literature indicates that this practice is successful in non-African countries. Thus, this research sought to test whether minimum tillage [...] Read more.
Conservation agriculture continues to be promoted in developing nations as a sustainable and suitable agricultural practice to enhance smallholder productivity. A look at the literature indicates that this practice is successful in non-African countries. Thus, this research sought to test whether minimum tillage (MT), a subset of conservation agriculture, could lead to a significant impact on smallholder households’ welfare in Southern Tanzania. Using cross-sectional data from 608 randomly selected smallholder households, we applied propensity score matching to determine the effects of adopting minimum tillage on smallholder households’ per capita net crop income and labor demand. Our results indicated that minimum tillage adoption has positive impacts on smallholder households’ per capita net crop income. Further, it reduces the total household labor demands, allowing households to engage in other income-generating activities. However, the adoption rate of minimum tillage is in the early majority stage (21.38%). Thus, we propose the government to support household credit access and extension-specific information to improve the probability of adopting minimum tillage. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soil Tillage Systems and Conservative Agriculture)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Soil Penetration Resistance after One-Time Inversion Tillage: A Spatio-Temporal Analysis at the Field Scale
Land 2020, 9(12), 482; https://doi.org/10.3390/land9120482 - 01 Dec 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 607
Abstract
Conservation agriculture may lead to increased penetration resistance due to soil compaction. To loosen the topsoil and lower the compaction, one-time inversion tillage (OTIT) is a measure frequently used in conservation agriculture. However, the duration of the positive effects of this measure on [...] Read more.
Conservation agriculture may lead to increased penetration resistance due to soil compaction. To loosen the topsoil and lower the compaction, one-time inversion tillage (OTIT) is a measure frequently used in conservation agriculture. However, the duration of the positive effects of this measure on penetration resistance is sparsely known. Therefore, the aim of this study was to analyze the spatio-temporal behavior of penetration resistance after OTIT as an indicator for soil compaction. A field subdivided into three differently tilled plots (conventional tillage with moldboard plough to 30 cm depth (CT), reduced tillage with chisel plough to 25 cm depth (RT1) and reduced tillage with disk harrow to 10 cm depth (RT2)) served as study area. In 2014, the entire field was tilled by moldboard plough and penetration resistance was recorded in the following 5 years. The results showed that OTIT reduced the penetration resistance in both RT-plots and led to an approximation in all three plots. However, after 18 (RT2) and 30 months (RT1), the differences in penetration resistance were higher (p < 0.01) in both RT-plots compared to CT. Consequently, OTIT can effectively remove the compacted layer developed in conservation agriculture. However, the lasting effect seems to be relatively short. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soil Tillage Systems and Conservative Agriculture)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Planosol CO2 Respiration, Chemical and Physical Properties of Differently Tilled Faba Bean Cultivation
Land 2020, 9(11), 456; https://doi.org/10.3390/land9110456 - 17 Nov 2020
Viewed by 648
Abstract
Soil tillage intensity influences the chemical composition of soil, the distribution of nutrients, and soil physical and mechanical properties, as well as gas flows. The impact of reduced tillage on these indices in faba bean cultivation is still insufficient and requires more analysis [...] Read more.
Soil tillage intensity influences the chemical composition of soil, the distribution of nutrients, and soil physical and mechanical properties, as well as gas flows. The impact of reduced tillage on these indices in faba bean cultivation is still insufficient and requires more analysis on a global scale. This study was carried out at Vytautas Magnus University, Agriculture Academy (Lithuania) in 2016–2018. The aim of the investigation was to establish the influence of the tillage systems on the soil chemical composition, temperature, moisture content, and CO2 respiration in faba bean cultivation limited by the semi-humid subarctic climate. On the basis of a long-term tillage experiment, five tillage systems were tested: deep and shallow moldboard plowing, deep cultivation-chiseling, shallow cultivation-disking, and no-tillage. Results showed that in conditions of plowless tillage systems, the content of precrops’ residues on the topsoil before the spring tillage was 5 to 15 times higher than in plowed plots. It undoubtedly was for the amount of available nutrients in the soil, soil temperature, and moisture content. Plowless and no-tillage systems could initiate an increase in the amount of available nutrients in soil. The highest concentration of chemical elements was found in no-tilled plots. So faba bean crops could largely increase the composition of potassium and total nitrogen and stabilized CO2 respiration from soil during one vegetative period. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soil Tillage Systems and Conservative Agriculture)
Show Figures

Graphical abstract

Article
Potential Impacts of Soil Tillage System on Isoflavone Concentration of Soybean as Functional Food Ingredients
Land 2020, 9(10), 386; https://doi.org/10.3390/land9100386 - 12 Oct 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 691
Abstract
Soybean is an important natural source of isoflavones, but their concentration is likely to be influenced by external factors, such as climatic conditions and soil tillage systems. However, there is minimal information about the effects of such external factors on the isoflavone concentration [...] Read more.
Soybean is an important natural source of isoflavones, but their concentration is likely to be influenced by external factors, such as climatic conditions and soil tillage systems. However, there is minimal information about the effects of such external factors on the isoflavone concentration in soybeans grown in Europe. Therefore, in this study, field experiments were established in Romania to investigate the potential impacts of three different soil tillage systems—conventional, minimum tillage and no-tillage—on crop yields and the isoflavone concentration of soybeans for three experimental years, 2014–2016. Our experimental results indicated that the soil tillage systems had little impact on the soybean yields each year. However, the 2016 yield was found to be higher than the 2014 and 2015 yields under all three soil systems. For every experimental year, the higher yield was recorded by the conventional system, followed by the minimum tillage system and no-tillage system under first weed control (weed control two (wct2): S-metolaclor 960 g/L, imazamox 40 g/L and propaquizafop 100 g/L). Likewise, the soil tillage system did not have a significant influence on the total isoflavone concentrations. Nevertheless, we noticed some variations in the individual isoflavone concentration (daidzin, genistin, glycitin, daidzein, genistein) in each year. Altogether, the minimum tillage and no-tillage systems may be employed as a suitable soil tillage system in soybean farming without an impact on the total isoflavone. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soil Tillage Systems and Conservative Agriculture)
Show Figures

Figure A1

Article
Extent of Soil Acidity in No-Tillage Systems in the Western Cape Province of South Africa
Land 2020, 9(10), 361; https://doi.org/10.3390/land9100361 - 29 Sep 2020
Viewed by 854
Abstract
Roughly 90% of farmers in the Western Cape Province of South Africa have converted to no-tillage systems to improve the efficiency of crop production. Implementation of no-tillage restricts the mixing of soil amendments, such as limestone, into soil. Stratification of nutrients and pH [...] Read more.
Roughly 90% of farmers in the Western Cape Province of South Africa have converted to no-tillage systems to improve the efficiency of crop production. Implementation of no-tillage restricts the mixing of soil amendments, such as limestone, into soil. Stratification of nutrients and pH is expected. A soil survey was conducted to determine the extent and geographical spread of acid soils and pH stratification throughout the Western Cape. Soil samples (n = 653) were taken at three depths (0–5, 5–15, 15–30 cm) from no-tillage fields. Differential responses (p ≤ 0.05) between the two regions (Swartland and southern Cape), as well as soil depth, and annual rainfall influenced (p ≤ 0.05) exchangeable acidity, Ca and Mg, pH(KCl), and acid saturation. A large portion (19.3%) of soils (specifically in the Swartland region) had at least one depth increment with pH(KCl) ≤ 5.0, which is suboptimal for wheat (Triticum aestivum), barley (Hordeum vulgare), and canola (Brassica napus). Acid saturation in the 5–15 cm depth increment in the Swartland was above the 8% threshold for production of most crops. Acid soils are a significant threat to crop production in the region and needs tactical agronomic intervention (e.g. strategic tillage) to ensure sustainability. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soil Tillage Systems and Conservative Agriculture)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Water Erosion Reduction Using Different Soil Tillage Approaches for Maize (Zea mays L.) in the Czech Republic
Land 2020, 9(10), 358; https://doi.org/10.3390/land9100358 - 28 Sep 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 560
Abstract
In today’s agriculture, maize is considered to be one of the major feed, food and industrial crops. Cultivation of maize by inappropriate agricultural practices and on unsuitable sites is connected with specific risks of soil degradation, mainly due to water erosion of the [...] Read more.
In today’s agriculture, maize is considered to be one of the major feed, food and industrial crops. Cultivation of maize by inappropriate agricultural practices and on unsuitable sites is connected with specific risks of soil degradation, mainly due to water erosion of the soil. The aim of this study was to evaluate the yielding parameters, fodder quality and anti-erosion efficiency of different methods of conservation tillage for maize in two areas (Jevíčko—JEV and Skoupý—SKO) with different climate and soil conditions in the Czech Republic in the period 2016–2018, using multivariate exploratory techniques such as principal component analysis (PCA) and factor analysis (FA). Four variants of soil tillage methods were analysed: Conventional Tillage (CT), two slightly different Strip-Till techniques (ST) and Direct Sowing (DS). The analysed parameters were: dry mass of the plants, height of the plants, starch content (SC), organic matter digestibility (OMD) and content of neutral detergent fibre (NDF), soil loss by erosion and surface runoff. The multivariate exploratory techniques PCA and FA significantly differed in two categories of techniques in both locations. The first category consists of soil conservation techniques (SCT): ST (JEV/SKO) and DS (JEV). These techniques are characterised by lower yields of dry mass, lower height of plants, forage quality equal to CT, but a high level of protection of the soil against erosion. The second category consists of CT (JEV and SKO) and partially of DS (SKO). These treatments are characterised by high dry mass production, higher plants, high forage quality, but a feeble capacity of protection of the soil against erosion. The results of the study confirm the presumption of the positive influence of introduction and application of new agronomical practices in the areas of interest and other areas with similar natural conditions in the sense of sustainable management for agricultural management of agricultural land for the conditions of the Czech Republic and therefore of Central and Eastern Europe. PCA and FA were used as an effective method for comprehensive evaluation of the use of STC in agricultural practice. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soil Tillage Systems and Conservative Agriculture)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Synergies and Determinants of Sustainable Intensification Practices in Pakistani Agriculture
Land 2020, 9(4), 110; https://doi.org/10.3390/land9040110 - 05 Apr 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 862
Abstract
Sustainable intensification practices (SIPs) involve a process to produce high yields for existing land without affecting the environment. The significance and relevance of SIPs in a Pakistani context demands an investigation. Hence, this study takes the initiative to investigate the determinants regarding the [...] Read more.
Sustainable intensification practices (SIPs) involve a process to produce high yields for existing land without affecting the environment. The significance and relevance of SIPs in a Pakistani context demands an investigation. Hence, this study takes the initiative to investigate the determinants regarding the adoption of these practices. Based on the evidence, we selected five SIPs, namely, improved seeds, organic manure, crop rotation, intercropping, and low tillage. Furthermore, this study analyzes the adoption of SIPs with randomly collected data from 612 farmers through multistage sampling. A multivariate probit model (MVP) is employed to analyze the mutually dependent adoption decisions and identify the factors associated with them. The results revealed that education, the area under cultivation, access to information, extension access, social participation, rainfall variability, and temperature increase significantly predict the adoption of SIPs. The adoption of organic manure and crop rotation was highest between all the ecological zones, whereas low tillage was the least adopted practice. Adoption intensity in mixed cropping zones was slightly higher than the other ecological zones. Moreover, the findings also reveal the important synergies amid natural resource management and input-based SIPs. Hence, the study highlights the perseverance and importance of social groups and recommends the government to formulate comprehensive policies to facilitate institutional access and elevate the adoption level amongst the farming community. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soil Tillage Systems and Conservative Agriculture)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Back to TopTop