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Simulating the effects of saline and sodic subsoils on wheat crops growing on Vertosols

Hochman, Z. and Dang, Y.P. and Schwenke, G.D. and Dalgliesh, N.P. and Routley, R. and McDonald, M. and Daniells, I.G. and Manning, W. and Poulton, P.L. (2007) Simulating the effects of saline and sodic subsoils on wheat crops growing on Vertosols. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research, 58 (8). pp. 802-810.

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Article Link(s): http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/AR06365

Publisher URL: http://www.publish.csiro.au

Abstract

Soils with high levels of chloride and/or sodium in their subsurface layers are often referred to as having subsoil constraints (SSCs). There is growing evidence that SSCs affect wheat yields by increasing the lower limit of a crop's available soil water (CLL) and thus reducing the soil's plant-available water capacity (PAWC). This proposal was tested by simulation of 33 farmers' paddocks in south-western Queensland and north-western New South Wales. The simulated results accounted for 79% of observed variation in grain yield, with a root mean squared deviation (RMSD) of 0.50 t/ha. This result was as close as any achieved from sites without SSCs, thus providing strong support for the proposed mechanism that SSCs affect wheat yields by increasing the CLL and thus reducing the soil's PAWC.

In order to reduce the need to measure CLL of every paddock or management zone, two additional approaches to simulating the effects of SSCs were tested. In the first approach the CLL of soils was predicted from the 0.3-0.5 m soil layer, which was taken as the reference CLL of a soil regardless of its level of SSCs, while the CLL values of soil layers below 0.5 m depth were calculated as a function of these soils' 0.3-0.5 m CLL values as well as of soil depth plus one of the SSC indices EC, Cl, ESP, or Na. The best estimates of subsoil CLL values were obtained when the effects of SSCs were described by an ESP-dependent function.

In the second approach, depth-dependent CLL values were also derived from the CLL values of the 0.3-0.5 m soil layer. However, instead of using SSC indices to further modify CLL, the default values of the water-extraction coefficient (kl) of each depth layer were modified as a function of the SSC indices. The strength of this approach was evaluated on the basis of correlation of observed and simulated grain yields. In this approach the best estimates were obtained when the default kl values were multiplied by a Cl-determined function. The kl approach was also evaluated with respect to simulated soil moisture at anthesis and at grain maturity. Results using this approach were highly correlated with soil moisture results obtained from simulations based on the measured CLL values.

This research provides strong evidence that the effects of SSCs on wheat yields are accounted for by the effects of these constraints on wheat CLL values. The study also produced two satisfactory methods for simulating the effects of SSCs on CLL and on grain yield. While Cl and ESP proved to be effective indices of SSCs, EC was not effective due to the confounding effect of the presence of gypsum in some of these soils. This study provides the tools necessary for investigating the effects of SSCs on wheat crop yields and natural resource management (NRM) issues such as runoff, recharge, and nutrient loss through simulation studies. It also facilitates investigation of suggested agronomic adaptations to SSCs.

Item Type:Article
Business groups:Agri-Science, Crop and Food Science
Additional Information:© CSIRO.
Keywords:Chloride; crop lower limit; salinity; simulation; sodicity; subsoil constraints.
Subjects:Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Soils. Soil science > Soil and crops. Soil-plant relationships. Soil productivity
Plant culture > Field crops > Wheat
Science > Statistics > Simulation modelling
Deposited On:28 Apr 2009 03:08
Last Modified:25 Oct 2011 03:47

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