Effects of tillage and mulch on the growth, yield and irrigation water productivity of a dry seeded rice-wheat cropping system in north-west India

Naveen-Gupta, Sudhir-Yadav, E. Humphreys, S.S. Kukal, Balwinder-Singh, P. L. Eberbach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Depletion and/or degradation of natural resources, increasing farm labour scarcity, and high production cost are major threats to the rice-wheat cropping system of north-west India. Conservation agriculture (CA) is a potential solution which can be achieved by switching from puddling then transplanting of rice to dry seeding (DSR), together with changing from conventional tillage (CT) to zero tillage (ZT) for wheat with surface retention of rice residues. Whether the use of ZT for both crops confers additional benefits to either crop is not known. The effects of surface retention of rice residues in wheat on the subsequent DSR crop are also unknown, nor how this is affected by tillage for DSR. Therefore, a field study was conducted during 2012-14 to investigate the interactions between tillage for rice and wheat (CT, ZT), and rice residue management (removed, retained on the soil surface), on the performance of a dry seeded rice-wheat system. There were no significant interaction or main treatment effects on wheat grain yield in the first two years, but in the third year, yield of ZT wheat (5.5 t ha−1) was significantly lower than yield of CT wheat (6.0 t ha−1). Yield of wheat decreased significantly over the three years, for example from 7.7 to 6.3 to 5.8 t ha−1 in the control system (CT for both crops, no rice straw mulch). Weather data analysis and simulation modelling suggested that this was entirely due to differences in seasonal weather conditions. Growth of non-mulched ZT wheat was inferior to that of mulched ZT wheat, and that of CT wheat with and without mulch, regardless of tillage for rice, although this was not reflected in wheat grain yield. Mulch delayed wheat crop development and the time of irrigation to varying degrees depending on seasonal conditions, and reduced irrigation amount by 50–100 mm in two of the three years.
Tillage and rice residue management treatments did not affect the yield of DSR in the first year (mean yield 6.0 t ha−1). However, in the second year, growth and grain yield of ZTDSR (3.2 t ha−1) were inferior to that of CTDSR (3.8 t ha−1), regardless of tillage treatment for wheat. There was a consistent trend for poorer growth of DSR following wheat mulched with rice straw (significant in the first year), suggesting the need to examine the possibility of allelopathic effects of surface rice straw retention in dry seeded rice-wheat systems. There was a decline in rice growth and grain yield over the two years in all treatments. For example, yield of rice in the control declined from 5.9 t ha−1 in 2012 to 4.3 t ha−1 in 2013. Seasonal conditions and simulated growth and yield were similar each year; the poorer observed rice growth and yield in 2013 were due to disease during grain filling, greater weed infestation during the early vegetative stage, and unexplained factors during the middle of the season.
Total system rice equivalent yield (REY) was not affected by tillage or mulch treatments nor their interactions in 2012 (mean REY 13.3 t ha−1), but was significantly lower in systems with ZTDSR (9.4 t ha−1) than CTDSR (10.0 t ha−1) in 2013. Treatment effects on irrigation input to rice and the total system were small. The net result was no treatment effects on total cropping system irrigation water productivity (WPi) in 2012 (mean 0.83 kg m−3), and significantly higher system WPi in 2013 in systems with CTDSR (0.69 kg m−3) than ZTDSR (0.63 kg m−3).
The results suggest that in a dry seeded rice-wheat cropping system, surface retention of rice residues can improve the growth of ZT wheat right from the first crop, although this did not affect yield in the first three years. However, whether there is an adverse carry over effect of the rice residues on DSR requires further investigation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)219-236
Number of pages18
JournalField Crops Research
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2016


Dive into the research topics of 'Effects of tillage and mulch on the growth, yield and irrigation water productivity of a dry seeded rice-wheat cropping system in north-west India'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this