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The effects of minimal tillage, contour cultivation and in-field vegetative barriers on soil erosion and phosphorus loss.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date12/2009
JournalSoil and Tillage Research
Journal number1
Volume106
Number of pages7
Pages145-151
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Runoff, sediment, total phosphorus and total dissolved phosphorus losses in overland flow were measured for two years on unbounded plots cropped with wheat and oats. Half of the field was cultivated with minimum tillage (shallow tillage with a tine cultivator) and half was conventionally ploughed. Within each cultivation treatment there were different treatment areas (TA). In the first year of the experiment, one TA was cultivated up and down the slope, one TA was cultivated on the contour, with a beetle bank acting as a vegetative barrier partway up the slope, and one had a mixed direction cultivation treatment, with cultivation and drilling conducted up and down the slope and all subsequent operations conducted on the contour. In the second year, this mixed treatment was replaced with contour cultivation. Results showed no significant reduction in runoff, sediment losses or total phosphorus losses from minimum tillage when compared to the conventional plough treatment, but there were increased losses of total dissolved phosphorus with minimum tillage. The mixed direction cultivation treatment increased surface runoff and losses of sediment and phosphorus. Increasing surface roughness with contour cultivation reduced surface runoff compared to up and down slope cultivation in both the plough and minimum tillage treatment areas, but this trend was not significant. Sediment and phosphorus losses in the contour cultivation treatment followed a very similar pattern to runoff. Combining contour cultivation with a vegetative barrier in the form of a beetle bank to reduce slope length resulted in a non-significant reduction in surface runoff, sediment and total phosphorus when compared to up and down-slope cultivation, but there was a clear trend towards reduced losses. However, the addition of a beetle bank did not provide a significant reduction in runoff, sediment losses or total phosphorus losses when compared to contour cultivation, suggesting only a marginal additional benefit. The economic implications for farmers of the different treatment options are investigated in order to assess their suitability for implementation at a field scale.