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Realizing the Genetic Yield Potential of Wheat through Soil and Crop Management Technologies based on the Principles

of Conservation Agriculture

Pat Wall, Ken Sayre, Bram Govaerts and Nele Verhulst

Genetic Yield Potential


Crop yield is limited only by: Temperature Radiation

Requires Crop and Soil Management Practices that ensure that crop yield is not limited by:
Nutrients Water Soil oxygen Pests, weeds and diseases Lack of soil support

However, for the farmer achieving Genetic Yield Potential is of Academic Interest only

Realizing the Economic Yield Genetic Potential of Wheat through Soil and Crop Management Technologies based on the Principles of Conservation Agriculture

Definition of Yield Gaps

Best farmers attainable yield

Fischer et al., 2009

Gap = + 25%

Source: Fischer, Byerlee and Edmeades, 2009

Gap = + 50%

Source: Fischer, Byerlee and Edmeades, 2009

Choosing direction
Unsustainability is NOT an option Few would argue against the imperative to employ only those agricultural technologies that have a neutral or positive impact on our environment
Jeff Simmons Food Economics and Consumer Choice, in Technologys Role in the 21st Century

Two of the principal indicators of nonsustainability of agricultural systems:


Soil erosion Soil organic matter decline

Conservation Agriculture (CA)


CA is a system based on three principles: Minimal soil movement Surface crop residue retention Crop rotation

CA results if we remove the Negative Components from Conventional Agriculture


We need to stop doing the unsustainable components of conventional agriculture: Ploughing/tilling the soil

Removing all organic material Monoculture CA includes all of the other principles of sound crop management.

Benefits of CA

Increased water infiltration Reduced moisture evaporation Less water run-off and soil erosion Reduction in labor and energy use Less turn-around time between crops Greater biological activity in the soil Reduction in production costs * Increases in soil organic matter * Increases in nutrient availability * Greater biological pest control *

* Slower, cumulative benefits

Benefits of CA

Increased water infiltration Reduced moisture evaporation Less water run-off and soil erosion Reduction in labor and energy use Less turn-around time between crops Greater biological activity in the soil Reduction in production costs * Increases in soil organic matter * Increases in nutrient availability * Greater biological pest control *

* Slower, cumulative benefits

Economically Attainable Yield


Depends to a large degree on: Nutrient use efficiency Water use efficiency Aerobic soil conditions Crop management for radiation interception Control of pests, diseases and weeds

Nutrient Use Efficiency


(kg grain/kg nutrient applied)

Function of: Presence of nutrients in proximity to the roots Amount of nutrients Availability of the nutrients Plant efficiency in extracting nutrients

Presence of the nutrient in proximity to the roots


Root density (Soil density, aeration, genetic differences) Rooting depth (Soil compaction, soil moisture, genetic differences) Nutrient leaching (Nutrient and water management, rooting depth)

Availability of Nutrients
Soil Organic Matter and Crop Nutrition
CEC of sandy soils + 10 meq/100g soil CEC of clay soils up to 50 meq/100g soil CEC of SOM 200 -2000 meq/100g SOM

Effect of Conservation Agriculture on some nutrient levels


Critical Conven- CA Level tional Seed in approx Tillage rip line 2800 2447 3591 2800 1445 1740 18000 10100 14778 20 241 159 CA Direct Significance Level seeded 3922 *** 1825 NS (2 sites) 16278 ** 167 **

Site Zimuto Madziwa Zimuto Zimuto

Element P ppm P ppm K ppm Mn ppm

Note: Second season in Zimuto, first season in Madziwa

The mineralization of soil organic matter provides a source of anions for the crop.

Water Use Efficiency


Water infiltration Water retention Evaporation Rooting depth and density Drainage

Effect of Soil Cover on Water Infiltration


100
Infiltration (%)

80 60 40 20 0 0
20 40 60 80 100

Soil Cover (%)


Source: Roth et al., 1988

Water Infiltration Time to Pond On-farm Results

Conventional Rip-line seed Direct Seed CV% SE Diff

Shamva 6.26 b 11.50 a 11.99 a 22.7 1.30

Zimuto 6.60 b 11.50 a 10.88 a 23.9 1.24

Water Retention

Water content at field capacity (FC) and permanent wilting point (PWP) for sandy (A) and silt loam (B) textured soils
Hudson, 1994

Water Use Efficiency and Evaporation

French and Schultz, 1984

Water Use Efficiency and Evaporation

French and Schultz, 1984

Water Use Efficiency and Evaporation

French and Schultz, 1984

Water Use Efficiency and Evaporation


8000

Grain Yield (kg/ha)

6000
Good crop achieves potential Poor crop well below potential

4000

2000

0 0 100 200 300 400 500 April - October Rainfall

Water Use Efficiency and Evaporation


8000

Grain Yield (kg/ha)

6000 22 kg grain/mm 4000 20 kg grain/mm 2000

0 0 100 200 300 400 500 April - October Rainfall

Effect of Surface Residue Cover on Moisture Evaporation from the Soil


% Surface Cover 0 20 40 60 80
Schertz, 1994

% Relative Evaporation 100 78 67 61 58

Water Use Efficiency and Evaporation


8000

Grain Yield (kg/ha)

6000 22 kg grain/mm 4000 20 kg grain/mm 2000

0 0 100 200 300 400 500 April - October Rainfall

Crop Improvement and Crop and Soil Management must Travel Together BUT Within the Context of Sustainable Systems Thank you