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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Effects of Burn/Low-Till on Erosion and Soil Quality

Authors
item McCool, Donald
item Pannkuk, Chris - WASHINGTON STATE UNIV
item Kennedy, Ann
item Fletcher, Pam - USDA-FS

Submitted to: Soil & Tillage Research
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: May 23, 2008
Publication Date: July 15, 2008
Repository URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10113/21456
Citation: McCool, D.K., Pannkuk, C.D., Kennedy, A.C., Fletcher, P.S. 2008. Effects of Burn/Low-Till on Erosion and Soil Quality. Soil & Tillage Research. 101 (2008) 2-9 [doi:10.1016/j.still.2008.05.007].

Interpretive Summary: Residue burning followed by one (no-till) or two (low-till) operations for seeding of winter wheat following winter wheat has been practiced by some growers in the higher rainfall areas of the Pacific Northwestern Wheat Region. Residue burning eliminates the numerous seedbed tillage operations that are normally required to reduce residues and control weeds and diseases in continuous winter wheat production. The detrimental effects on soil erosion of burn and till systems are well documented. However, there is little or no data on the effects on erosion and soil quality of burning with no or low-till annual cropping. A three-year field study comparing erosion from seeded winter wheat following winter wheat using burn and low or no-till (BLT) practices and conventionally managed winter wheat following various crops (CM) was completed in 1997. Results indicate soil loss from the BLT fields was not significantly different from the CM fields. The results of this study indicate no adverse effects on soil loss or soil quality from using BLT with one or two-pass seeding of winter wheat following winter wheat. The results have implications for harvesting wheat stubble as a source of biomass, or as an alternative technique for initiating conversion from a conventional tillage to a no-till seeding system, without high initial investment in new seeding equipment.

Technical Abstract: Burn/low-till management of winter wheat is being practiced by some growers in the higher rainfall areas of the Pacific Northwestern Winter Wheat Region. Residue burning eliminates the numerous seedbed tillage operations that are normally required to reduce residues and control weeds and diseases in continuous winter wheat production. The detrimental effects on soil erosion of burn and till systems are well documented. However, there is little or no data on the effects of burning with no-till or low-till annual cropping on either erosion or soil quality. A three-year field study comparing erosion resulting from burn/low-till (BLT) seeded winter wheat following winter wheat and conventionally managed (CM) winter wheat following various crops was completed in 1997. Results indicate soil loss from the BLT fields was not significantly different from the CM fields with various crops preceding winter wheat. For the BLT fields, soil loss was as closely related to soil disturbance (number of tillage operations) as to the amount of surface residue. When residue and crop cover did not differ with the number of tillage operations, an increased number of tillage operations after burning loosened the soil and resulted in greater soil loss. The results of this study indicate no adverse effects on soil loss or soil quality from using the BLT with one or two-pass seeding of winter wheat following winter wheat. The results have implications for harvesting wheat stubble as a source of biomass, or as an alternative technique for initiating conversion from a conventional tillage to a no-till seeding system, without high initial investment in new seeding equipment.

Last Modified: 11/27/2014
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