A comparative study of the physical, chemical and microbiological status of soils, as influenced by conventional and reduced tillage
Historically, shifts to reduced and no-tillage management for production of crops were fostered by needs to decrease soil erosion and loss of organic matter, reduce fuel and labour costs and conserve soil water, as compared with conventional fallow tillage management. Recent interest in maintaining soil quality has been stimulated by a renewed awareness of the importance of soil condition to both the sustainability of agricultural production systems and environmental quality (Doran and Parkin, 1996). The aim of this project was to determine the impact on the physical, chemical and microbiological status of the soil of conventional and reduced tillage. It has been suggested that the reduced soil disturbance associated with the tine cultivator improves soil structure, increases nutrient content in the top 10cm of soil, increases microbial activity and improves physical characteristics. From this study it was determined that the environmental benefits linked to reduced tillage in literature, did not develop in the first two years of this programmes implementation. The results of this study determined that soil nutrients did not increase in concentration in the top 10 cm of soil under reduced cultivation. The only exception was exchangeable potassium. As potassium is not a mobile nutrient its movement is dependent on soil disturbance, therefore under reduced cultivation its concentration was allowed to accumulate in the upper horizon of the soil profile. Microbial activity was greater in the conventionally tilled treatments, as determined by total aerobic bacterial numbers. This could be due to the increased rates of soil aeration in this treatment. Numbers of aerobic bacteria were greater in the conventional tillage treatments at both incubation temperatures of 22 and 32° C. The physical characteristics of the soil determined, indicate that below the depth of soil cultivation, cone penetration resistance increases. Therefore the reduced cultivation treatments would be more prone to soil compaction, higher in the soil profile.
- Theses - Science ITS 
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