Conservation agriculture augments water uptake in wheat: Evidence from modelling
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Division of Crop Research, ICAR Research Complex For Eastern Region, ICAR Parisar, Patna, Bihar, 800014, India
Division of Agricultural Physics, ICAR-Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi, 110012, India
Division of Agronomy, ICAR-Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi, 110012, India
Debashis Chakraborty   

Agricultural Physics, Indian Agricultural Research Institute, India
Final revision date: 2022-11-11
Acceptance date: 2022-11-22
Publication date: 2023-02-15
Int. Agrophys. 2023, 37(1): 89–99
  • A 7-year transition to conservation agriculture (CA) fostered root growth in wheat;
  • Simulated root water uptake was 17% higher under CA than conventional tillage;
  • Soil evaporation and drainage reduced under CA;
  • Irrigation scheduling must differ for CA compared to existing conventional practice.
Field water balance and root water uptake in wheat were simulated with Hydrus-2D after a 7-year transition to conservation agriculture. The zero-tilled system with a 40% anchored residue improved soil structure and porosity. Water retention was augmented for most of the growing period, especially in the subsurface (15-30 cm), which was essentially a compact layer (penetration resistance >2 500 kPa). The lower soil strength allowed the roots to extend further as compared to conventional tillage. The loss in drainage was reduced by 54-74% over the season using zero tillage with residue. Improved initial crop establishment led to a higher leaf area index and also to an enhanced interception of photosynthetically active radiation. Soil evaporation was also reduced, and root water uptake was 14-17% higher in zero tillage with residue. The grain yield was 17% higher in zero tillage with residue with a marginally higher crop water uptake efficiency. The adoption of conservation agriculture optimized water uptake in wheat by the improving physical condition of the soil and plant water availability. Hydrus-2D was used to successfully simulate the soil water balance and root water uptake in wheat under conservation agriculture. Conservation agriculture requires a redesign of irrigation scheduling, unlike in conventional practice. The simulation of water balance in the soil will aid in irrigation water management in the wheat crop in order to achieve a higher degree of efficiency under conservation agriculture.
The authors acknowledge the facilities, help, and support of the Heads of Divisions of Agricultural Physics and Agronomy, ICAR-IARI, during the study. The primary author acknowledges the support of the Directorate, ICAR in general, and the ICAR Research Complex, Patna for the successful completion of the study.
The work was partially funded by the Institute project (CRSCIARISILZ014025257, 2014-2021) and partially by the PG School, IARI.
The Authors declare they have no conflict of interest.
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