Subsoil constraints in Vertosols: crop water use, nutrient concentration, and grain yields of bread wheat, durum wheat, barley, chickpea, and canola

Y. P. Dang, R. Routley, M. McDonald, R. C. Dalal, D. K. Singh, D. Orange, M. Mann
2006 Australian Journal of Agricultural Research  
Single or multiple factors implicated in subsoil constraints including salinity, sodicity, and phytotoxic concentrations of chloride (Cl) are present in many Vertosols including those occurring in Queensland, Australia. The variable distribution and the complex interactions that exist between these constraints limit the agronomic or management options available to manage the soil with these subsoil constraints. The identification of crops and cultivars adapted to these adverse subsoil
more » ... e subsoil conditions and/or able to exploit subsoil water may be an option to maintain productivity of these soils. We evaluated relative performance of 5 winter crop species, in terms of grain yields, nutrient concentration, and ability to extract soil water, grown on soils with various levels and combinations of subsoil constraints in 19 field experiments over 2 years. Subsoil constraints were measured by levels of soil Cl, electrical conductivity of the saturation extract (EC se ), and exchangeable sodium percentage (ESP). Increasing levels of subsoil constraints significantly decreased maximum depth of water extraction, grain yield, and plant-available water capacity for all the 5 crops and more so for chickpea and durum wheat than bread wheat, barley, or canola. Increasing soil Cl levels had a greater restricting effect on water availability than did EC se and ESP. We developed empirical relationships between soil Cl, EC se , and ESP and crop lower limit (CLL) for estimating subsoil water extraction by 5 winter crops. However, the presence of gypsum influenced the ability to predict CLL based on the levels of EC se . Stronger relationships between apparent unused plant-available water (CLL -LL15; LL15 is lower limit at −1.5 MPa) and soil Cl concentrations than ESP or EC se suggested that the presence of high Cl in these soils most likely inhibited the subsoil water extraction by the crops. This was supported by increased sodium (Na) and Cl concentration with a corresponding decrease in calcium (Ca) and potassium (K) in young mature leaf of bread wheat, durum wheat, and chickpea with increasing levels of subsoil constraints. Of the 2 ions, Na and Cl, the latter appears to be more damaging than the former, resulting in plant dieback and reduced grain yields.
doi:10.1071/ar05268 fatcat:atiu2qsxlvae5nvmfulsv67azu