ABSTRACT Adopting a better tillage system not only improves the soil health and crop productivity but also improves the environment. A field experiment was conducted to investigate the effects of tillage and irrigation management on wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) production in a post-rice (Oryza sativa L.) management system on silty clay loam soil (acidic Alfisol) for 2003-2006. Four irrigation levels (RF: rainfed; I1: irrigation at crown root initiation (CRI); I2: irrigation at CRI + flowering; I3: irrigation at CRI + tillering + flowering), and two tillage systems (ZT: zero tillage and CT: conventional tillage) were tested. Zero tillage compared to CT, resulted in higher bulk density (1.34 vs 1.23 Mg –3), lower total porosity (48.7 vs 52.9%), higher penetration resistance (1.51 vs 1.37 MPa), lower saturated hydraulic conductivity (1.60 vs 92.0 mm h–1), lower infiltration rate (9.40 vs 36.6 mm h–1) and higher volumetric available water capacity (7.9 vs 7.5%) in the surface 0.15 m soil layer. Irrigation levels significantly affected crop water use, wheat yield, and water use efficiency (WUE). Average total water use was 461, 491, 534 and 580 mm under RF, I1, I2 and I3 treatments, respectively. Grain and straw yield of wheat were statistically the same under ZT and CT during 2003-2004; the values, averaged over four irrigation levels were 2.10 and 2.38 Mg a–1 for grain, and 3.46 and 3.67 Mg a–1 for straw, respectively. Grain yield declined by 22%, 11% and 8% of I3 (2.32 Mg ha–1) with RF, I1 and I2 treatments, respectively, under ZT; and by 13%, 8% and 5% of I3 (2.61 Mg ha–1) with RF, I1 and I2 treatments under CT. Average values of WUE were 4.33 kg ha–1 m–1 and 2.35 m3–1 grain for the ZT and CT treatments. Wheat yield increased with increased irrigation levels for all the cropping seasons. Results from this study concluded that ZT system was better compared to the CT system even with lower yields due to lower input costs for this treatment.
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