Grain yields and soil properties on loam soil after three decades with conservation tillage in southeast Norway
Four tillage trials have been performed on moderately well-drained loam soil in southeast Norway for 30–37 years (mean 34), comparing reduced tillage (8–10 cm in spring) with autumn ploughing (25 cm).In some years, additional stubble harrowing in autumn (10–12 cm) was compared with harrowing only in spring. Weeds were controlled with herbicides. Straw residues were retained after around 1990 and no fungicides were used. Grain yields are reported for the last nine years, and compared with earlier years.
Results are presented for a number of soil properties measured in recent years. Autumn harrowing gave no consistent yield benefit over harrowing only in spring.
There was little difference between ploughed and unploughed treatments in mean grain yields over the whole trial period, and the variability between years was similar in both tillage systems. Relative grain yields, calculated as yields obtained without ploughing in percentage of those obtained with ploughing, appeared to be normally distributed around 100%.
Responses were often positive in dry years, and negative in wet years. Reduced tillage gave higher P and K concentrations near the soil surface and slightly lower concentrations in deeper layers.
There was little change in their levels, relative to earlier findings. Changes in bulk density and total porosity were mostly attributable to changes in the stratification of organic matter. Reduced tillage increased porosity at 4–8 cm depth and decreased it slightly at 24–28 cm, but there was no change in the intermediate layer.
The moisture-holding capacity of the soil was altered little by reduced tillage, and soil aeration properties were satisfactory at all three depths measured. There was no change in the total amount of organic matter stored within the topsoil, despite marked changes in its distribution.
Reduced tillage gave significant increases in aggregate stability and an indication of greater earthworm activity.