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Soil & Tillage Research 78 (2004) 151170

Least limiting water range indicators of soil quality


and corn production, eastern Ontario, Canada
D.R. Lapen a, , G.C. Topp a , E.G. Gregorich a , W.E. Curnoe b
a

Eastern Cereal and Oilseed Research Centre, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Ottawa, Ont., Canada K1A 0C6
b Directors Office, University of Guelph-Kemptville College, Kemptville, Ont., Canada K0G 1J0

Abstract
The least limiting water range (LLWR) attempts to incorporate crop-limiting values of soil strength, aeration, and water
supply to plant roots into one effective parameter (on the basis of soil water content). The LLWR can be a useful indicator of
soil quality and soil physical constraints on crop production. This study focused on assessing dynamic cultivation zone LLWR
parameters between different cropping/tillage/trafficked clay loam plots at Winchester, Ont., to identify potential management
impact on surficial soil physical conditions for contrasting growing seasons. This study also evaluated dynamic cultivation
layer LLWR variables as indicators of corn (Zea mays L.) plant establishment and corn yield. The results suggest that no-till
soils had lower average air-filled porosities (AFP) and O2 concentrations than respectively managed tilled plots for both years
of study. Potential trafficking effects on aeration properties were most evident in no-till relative to till; preferentially trafficked
no-tilled plots had lower AFP and O2 concentrations than respective non-preferentially trafficked no-till plots for both years
of study. Corn establishment and yield variability were principally explained by cumulative differences between daily AFP
and aeration threshold values, and the cumulative number of days daily AFP was below an AFP aeration threshold for specific
corn growth stage periods. Lower AFP was linked to lower yields and plant establishments. Soil strength, as measured
by cone penetration resistance, was important over certain sites, but not as important globally as AFP in predicting crop
properties. Overall, conventional tilled soils that were not preferentially trafficked had most favorable aeration properties, and
subsequently, greatest corn populations and yields. No-till soils were at greater risk of aeration limiting conditions, especially
those in continuous corn and preferentially trafficked.
Crown Copyright 2004 Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Least limiting water range; Aeration; Cone resistance; Tillage; Trafficking; Corn; Clay loam; CART

1. Introduction
Optimal crop rooting soil physical conditions are a
result of complex interactions between soil strength
(mechanical impedance) and oxygen and water supply
to plant roots. The least limiting water range (LLWR)
Corresponding author. Tel.: +1-613-759-1537;
fax: +1-613-759-1515.
E-mail address: lapend@agr.gc.ca (D.R. Lapen).

incorporates crop-limiting values of these factors into


one effective parameter, on the basis of soil water content (WC) (Letey, 1985; Topp et al., 1994; da Silva and
Kay, 1997a). For instance, water contents associated
with cone penetration resistance (PR) values >2 MPa
(Bengough and Mullins, 1990; Greacen, 1986), and
more conservatively >3 MPa (Horn and Baumgartl,
2000), are generally accepted to limit root growth.
A critical aeration limit is often assumed to occur
at an air-filled porosity (AFP) of approximately 10%

0167-1987/$ see front matter Crown Copyright 2004 Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.still.2004.02.004

152

D.R. Lapen et al. / Soil & Tillage Research 78 (2004) 151170


0.6

Porosity

-3

Water content (m m )

0.5
0.4
Aeration Limit
0.3
0.2
0.1

LLWR
2 MPa Cone Pen. Res. Limit
Wilting Point

0.0

Fig. 1. Conceptual diagram of LLWR.

vol. for most agricultural crops. For AFPs <25% vol.


aeration may be significantly deficient under some
conditions (Glinski and Stepniewski, 1985). Depending on which is closer to the upper aeration limit,
the permanent wilting point (PWP) (approximately
1.5 MPa) or a threshold soil strength value can represent the lower water content limit in the LLWR
(Thomasson, 1978; Topp et al., 1994) (Fig. 1). Intrinsic accountability of these important water limit criteria makes the LLWR a potentially useful soil quality
indicator of cropping system impact on soil physical
conditions and crop yield (da Silva and Kay, 1996,
1997b; Betz et al., 1998; McKenzie and McBratney,
2001).
There is a desire for better understanding of the
soil physical property alterations imposed by various
tillage systems, and the impact of these alterations
on crop production (Carter, 1994; Soane and van
Ouwerkerk, 1994). Examination of soil properties for
conventional till and no-till provide for convenient
assessment of tillage practice extremes (Carter, 1988;
da Silva and Kay, 1996; Betz et al., 1998). However,
in many cases, property differences between tillage
treatments (Vyn et al., 1982; Culley et al., 1987;
Gregorich et al., 1993; Reynolds et al., 1995) may not
adequately explain yield variability. Spatial/temporal
variability in soil properties (Carter, 1988; Wendroth
et al., 1997; Lapen et al., in press) can be critical in the
evaluation of the effects of tillage management practice on soil and crop parameters. Notwithstanding important static indicators of soil quality (Reynolds et al.,
2002), soil properties governing LLWR threshold

values may not be temporally static (Lapen et al.,


in press), and systematic changes in dynamic soil
properties such as porosity and soil strength over a
growing season (Weaich et al., 1992) should be accounted for in LLWR analyses. Trafficking and timing of field operations can also impart an interacting
effect on soil/crop parameters (Lapen et al., 2002a).
The primary objectives of this study are to: (i) determine cultivation layer (within top 0.15 m of soil)
LLWRs for different tillage/trafficked/corn (Zea mays)
cropping systems from spatio-temporally distributed
soil water content information, cone penetration resistance (an indicator of soil strength), desorption
curve information, and soil oxygen concentrations,
(ii) evaluate differences in cultivation layer LLWR
parameters between systems to identify potential
management impact on surficial soil physical conditions for cooler/wetter (2000) and warmer/drier
(2001) growing seasons, and (iii) evaluate dynamic
cultivation layer LLWRs as indicators of corn plant
establishment and yield.

2. Materials and methods


2.1. Study site and treatments
Field measurements were carried out on a
tile-drained field (300 m long by approximately 114 m
wide) located near Winchester, Ont., Canada (latitude
45 03 N, longitude 75 21 W) (Fig. 2). The soil is
classified as a North Gower clay loam (Orthic Humic
Gleysol (Canadian), Mollic Gleysol (FAO)). Soil textures at depths between 00.3 and 0.30.5 m are approximately 0.20 sand, 0.28 clay, and 0.52 Mg Mg1
silt and 0.10 sand, 0.42 clay, and 0.48 Mg Mg1
silt, respectively. The field had been under timothy
(Phleum pratense L.) and brome grass (Bromus inermis Leyss.) for 9 years prior to 1996, after which,
the field was subdivided into crop plots under various
tillage, cropping system, and trafficking treatment
(worst and best managed) combinations (Table 1).
The field was never tilled while under hay production. Due to constraints imposed by field size/layout
and farm management, the plot treatments were
not replicated. The plots were approximately 7 m
wide 300 m long. Mouldboard plowing at a nominal depth of 0.17 m was done each fall after harvest

D.R. Lapen et al. / Soil & Tillage Research 78 (2004) 151170


0 0
1 0

620

B
N
T
C
C

B
N
T
C

0
1

B
N
T
C

0
0

0
1

0
0

W
N
T
C

B
B T B
T C T
C C C

W
N
T
C
C

W
N
T
C

0 0
0 1
W
WW T
T T C
C C C

72.9

N-S axis (m)

520

72.7

420
72.5

72.3 m

153

(0.35 Mg Mg1 ) as seeding time approached each


year. Preferential trafficking was done prior to spring
secondary tillage operations (cultivator) and seeding
activities. This treatment was employed to simulate
soil structural degradation, such as increased strength,
densities, and surface sealing, imposed by wheel traffic during wet soil conditions. Best management was
normal field operations when cultivation soils were
at water contents generally less than 0.3 Mg Mg1 .
Fertilizer for all plots was applied in spring at rates
of 155 and 150 kg N ha1 as ammonium nitrate for
2000 and 2001, respectively; there was no side dressing. The same corn planter was used on all plots. A
meteorological station at the site provided information on incoming radiation, relative humidity, wind
speed/direction, total precipitation and air and soil
temperature.
2.2. Soil and crop measurements

320

-50

50

E-W axis (m)

Fig. 2. Study field. Locations of soil measurement sites (solid black


diamonds) and in situ O2 concentration measurement sites (hollow
diamond for 2000 and hollow triangle for 2001) are overlaid on
elevation map of field. Plots run NS and treatment names/years
are given at top of map.

for tilled plots. A field trafficking treatment (i.e.,


worst management) was conducted by making single wheel-beside-wheel passes with a 7710 Ford
tractor (5400 kg total mass; front and rear tires
13.6R24 at 137 kPa and 18.4R34 at 124 kPa, respectively) over the length of selected plots when the
soil was at or slightly above the upper plastic limit
Table 1
Description of plot treatments
Plot

Tillage

Trafficking

Cropa,b

BNTCC
BNTC
BTCC
BTC
WNTCC
WNTC
WTCC
WTC

No-till
No-till
MB plow
MB plow
No-till
No-till
MB plow
MB plow

Best
Best
Best
Best
Worst
Worst
Worst
Worst

Cont. corn
1 year corn
Cont. corn
1 year corn
Cont. corn
1 year corn
Cont. corn
1 year corn

MB: mouldboard plow.


a Cornsoybeanwheat rotation for 1 year corn plots.
b Fourth year corn for 2000 and fifth year corn for 2001.

Cone penetration resistance was used as the cultivation zone (average: 0.060.12 m depth increment) soil
strength indicator in our LLWR analyses. The measurement methods were made using the TerraPoint
combination penetration resistance/water content instrument (Young et al., 2000; Topp et al., 2001) at
soil measurement sites (Fig. 2) located down the
un-trafficked (for secondary tillage, planting, fertilizer, and herbicide activities) center of each plot
(between-row) at various stages of plant development
from planting to post-harvest. The water content
sensor on the TerraPoint uses a time domain transmissivity (TDT) approach, which is similar to TDR
except that the signal for TDT is measured as it is
transmitted, rather than reflected.
In situ soil WC and O2 concentrations were measured at one measurement site per plot (Topp et al.,
2000) from 1997 to 2001. For each plot O2 concentrations were measured in duplicate at depths of 0.05,
0.10, 0.20, and 0.30 m using double-membrane oxygen cathodes and a model P5 oxygen sensor (Jensen
Instruments, Tacoma, WA). The O2 sensor voltage
was recorded on a 21X datalogger (Campbell Scientific Canada Ltd., Edmonton, Alta.) as hourly averages of six measurements. The O2 sensors, installed
each year just after emergence, were placed directly
beneath two adjacent corn rows at selected locations
within each plot (Fig. 2). At the same four depths, soil

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D.R. Lapen et al. / Soil & Tillage Research 78 (2004) 151170

WC was measured using a TDR instrument (model


MP917) (Environmental Sensors Inc., Victoria, BC).
The 0.20 m length TDR probes were centered beneath
the corn rows by insertion horizontally from a soil pit
with vertical faces parallel to each instrumented corn
row and 0.10 m from the row location. Into the same
vertical face, copperconstantan thermocouples were
also inserted at the same depth, and with the junction
directly beneath the corn row, to measure hourly soil
temperatures. The pit was back-filled after installation
of equipment. Soil water content measurements, to a
maximum depth of 0.4 m, were also determined at PR
measurement sites using the TerraPoint TDT-based
methods described in Topp et al. (2001).
Bulk densities at each depth increment at the in
situ O2 concentration measurement sites were sampled
in duplicate via vertically driven soil corers (76 mm
length and 47 mm i.d.) centered at O2 concentration
depths. Bulk densities at other soil measurement sites
were made in triplicate from 0 to 0.15 m depth using vertically driven soil corers (47 mm i.d.). Relative soil compaction was determined for each sample
site (00.15 m depth) by estimating empirically maximum bulk densities using soil texture information
(Diaz-Zorita et al., 2001) and measured bulk densities.
Soil cores (76 mm length and 76 mm i.d.) for desorption curve analysis were collected by vertically
driving a soil corer into surface soils near yearly O2
measurement sites; four measurements per plot were
taken. The pressure plate methods used to provide information on soil water desorption to matric potentials
of 1.5 MPa are described in Topp et al. (1993).
Spring cultivation layer residual soil NO3 -N +
NH4 -N (00.15 m depth) were determined at each
measurement site for each plot. Pre-fertilizer soil
samples were taken approximately 15 and 10 days
prior to planting for 2000 and 2001, respectively.
Three composited samples (18 mm diameter) were
taken at each soil sample location. The field moist
samples were immediately extracted with 2 M KCl.
Residual soil NO3 -N and NH4 -N concentrations
were analyzed using a TRAACS 800 Autoanalyzer
(Bran-Luebbe Analyzing Technologies, Elmsford,
NY).
Total plant counts for the two harvested center rows
were made along each plot approximately 1 month
after planting date. The corn plots were harvested with
a plot combine fitted with a grain weighing system.

The plot combine was stopped every 10 m along the


length of each plot and the total yield was measured
over the previous 10 m of travel.
2.3. LLWR approach
Dwyer et al. (1988) noted that for soils similar in
textural composition as those in this study, 62 and
20% of maximum corn root length occurred in the
00.15 and 0.150.30 m depth increment of the soil,
respectively. Moreover, Ritchie et al. (1993) illustrated
that the critical growing point (stem apex) of corn
typically occurs in the surface zone during critical
VE (emergence) and V3 (three-leaf stage) vegetative
stages of plant growth. Notwithstanding lower depth
impact on corn growth, this study focused on LLWR
parameters derived from water content information
in the top 0.15 m of the soil profile where most root
activity typically occurs and where compaction and
cultivation effects on soil structure at the site are most
strongly expressed (Lapen et al., 2002a; Topp et al.,
2003). Cultivation zone LLWR parameters were determined for each plot treatment for wetter-cooler
(2000) and drier-warmer (2001) conditions from
planting to corn maturity.
2.3.1. Estimating daily soil water contents
TDT- and TDR-based soil WC measurements were
not made continuously over the 2000 and 2001 growing seasons. Therefore, a soil water model (Tsuji et al.,
1994), used in a companion study, was used to predict
daily soil WC at respective depths over the growing
seasons using on-site soil, crop, and meteorological
information as input. Linear regressions were then
developed to predict site-specific daily WC using the
daily Tsuji et al. (1994) model predictions as independent data, and the TDT and TDR site measures as
dependent data.
2.3.2. Soil aeration, permanent wilting point, and
soil strength LLWR limits
Meyer and Barrs (1991) noted that the aeration status of the soil is more adequately described by total
O2 concentrations incorporating gaseous and dissolved states, than merely a simple gas-filled porosity
criterion (Glinski and Stepniewski, 1985). Experimental results for a variety of agricultural crops,
including cotton (Gossypium spp.), wheat (Triticum

D.R. Lapen et al. / Soil & Tillage Research 78 (2004) 151170

spp.), and corn, indicated that roots cease to grow at


O2 concentrations below 0.01 kg O2 m3 soil; aeration constraints were likely restrictive around values
of 0.02 kg O2 m3 soil (Meyer et al., 1987; Meyer
and Barrs, 1991). For each treatment in this study,
the highest observed growing season AFP (0.10 m
depth), associated with O2 concentrations (at 0.10 m
depth) less than 0.02 kg O2 m3 soil, was assumed to
represent an aeration limiting AFP. Thus, soil WC associated with these AFPs were assumed to be aeration
WC limits in the LLWR.
It was hypothesized that there would be general increase in cultivation zone bulk density (i.e., decrease
in porosity) over the growing season, in particular
for tilled plots (Lapen et al., in press). Therefore,
bulk densities (00.15 m depth at 10 m sample spacings over 300 m length of plots (un-trafficked and
between-row)) were collected periodically over growing seasons from planting to post-harvest from 1997
to 2001 over tilled and no-till plots. Multivariate adaptive regression splines (Friedman, 1991) were used to
describe statistical changes in bulk density from planting to post-harvest. The permanent wilting point was
considered to serve as a lower WC limit in the LLWR,
provided it was greater than the WC at which PR exceeded the root growth limiting value.
Root growth is usually considered to be reduced by
half at PR values between 2 and 3 MPa, whereas for
values greater than 3 MPa, root growth is generally
prevented (Bengough and Mullins, 1990; Horn and
Baumgartl, 2000). For this study, WC values associated with a PR value of 2.5 MPa were selected as soil
strength WC limits in the LLWR. Due to non-linear
associations between observed PR and soil WC over
the growing season for tilled plots (Lapen et al., in
press), empirical models were developed, using multivariate adaptive regression splines (Friedman, 1991),
to predict daily cultivation zone PR from cultivation
zone soil WC (tilled soils) and the number of days
after planting (DAP). Linear regressions were used to
predict daily PR from daily soil WC for no-till plots
(Lapen et al., in press).
2.3.3. Statistical approach
A suite of indicator variables were developed
(Table 2) to assess the relevance of planting-to-V6
stage LLWR and soil temperature factors on plant
establishment. These indicators expressed the

155

cumulative number of days a soil variable exceeded


a designated LLWR threshold, the cumulative difference between an estimated variable value and its
LLWR threshold, and cumulative daily soil temperatures. An additional variable was years in corn production (ROT). A non-parametric, binary, recursive
partitioning procedure described in Breiman et al.
(1984) and Steinberg and Colla (1995) called regression tree analysis (RTA) was used to predict plant
counts (establishment) from these LLWR and soil
temperature variables.
The goal of this RTA approach is to partition dependent data on the basis of independent variable split
criteria into a suite of low variance dependent variable
groups. The dependent variable mean value of each resulting group is typically used as the predicted value.
The RTA procedure begins by conducting tests using
the entire group of input data (root parent node) to
determine which independent variable value best (in
terms of greatest reduction of variance due to split,
i.e., improvement score) splits the dependent variable
into two subsequent groups or child nodes (primary
split for that node of data). This optimal splitting process continues for each child node until user-defined
stopping rules are met. Cross-validation can be used
to measure the goodness of fit, and mean-square error
is the criterion by which trees of different sizes are
ranked. Generally, this criterion can be expressed as
the cross-validated relative error (CVRE). The lower
the value is for a specific sized tree, the more statistically accurate the tree model is relative to other tested
trees. The specific RTA approach employed here is
discussed in more detail in Lapen et al. (2001). In
this study, cross-validation was employed using a 90%
learning and a 10% testing approach. Independent
variable importance for a selected tree model was determined as improvement scores associated with each
variable in its role as a primary and surrogate split.
The values of these improvements are summed over
each of the trees nodes and totaled, and are scaled
relative to the best performing variable. A surrogate
variable split mimics a primary split on a case by case
basis, but has improvement scores less than or equal to
the primary split score. Surrogate splits are ranked by
an association algorithm discussed in Breiman et al.
(1984). Surrogate splits provide additional information on variable masking effects, multicollinearity, and
potential for spurious predictions.

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D.R. Lapen et al. / Soil & Tillage Research 78 (2004) 151170

Table 2
Descriptions of variables used in statistical analyses
Variable description (AFPthr = threshold AFP value in LLWR for treatment)
AFP variables
V6AFPa,b
V6AFPDAYa,b
R1AFPb
R1AFPDAYb
R6AFPb
R6AFPDAYb
R1-V6AFPb
R1-V6AFPDAYb
R6-R1AFPb
R6-R1AFPDAYb

Cumulative daily AFP AFPthr from planting to V6 (m3 m3 day)


No. of days AFP below AFPthr from planting to V6
Cumulative daily AFP AFPthr from planting to R1 (m3 m3 day)
No. of days AFP below AFPthr from planting to R1
Cumulative daily AFP AFPthr from planting to R6 (m3 m3 day)
No. of days AFP below AFPthr from planting to R6
Cumulative daily AFP AFPthr from V6 to R1 (m3 m3 day)
No. of days AFP below AFPthr from V6 to R1
Cumulative daily AFP AFPthr from R1 to R6 (m3 m3 day)
No. of days AFP below AFPthr from R1 to R6

PR variables
V6PRa,b
V6PRDAYa,b
R1PRb
R1PRDAYb
R6PRb
R6PRDAYb
R1-V6PRb
R1-V6PRDAYb
R6-R1PRb
R6-R1PRDAYb

Cumulative daily PR 2.5 MPa from planting to V6 (MPa day)


No. of days PR below 2.5 MPa from planting to V6
Cumulative daily PR 2.5 MPa from planting to R1 (MPa day)
No. of days PR below 2.5 MPa from planting to R1
Cumulative daily PR 2.5 MPa from planting to R6 (MPa day)
No. of days PR below 2.5 MPa from planting to R6
Cumulative daily PR 2.5 MPa from V6 to R1 (MPa day)
No. of days PR below 2.5 MPa from V6 to R1
Cumulative daily PR 2.5 MPa from R1 to R6 (MPa day)
No. of days PR below 2.5 MPa from R1 to R6

Soil temperature variables


V6STEMPa,b
R1SOILTEMPb
R6SOILTEMPb

Cumulative daily soil temperature (0.1 m depth) from planting to V6 ( C day)


Cumulative daily soil temperature (0.1 m depth) from planting to R1 ( C day)
Cumulative daily soil temperature (0.1 m depth) from planting to R6 ( C day)

Crop variables
ROTa,b
YIELDc
COUNTc

First year corn (coded 1) and fifth (2000) and sixth (2001) year corn (coded 0)
Final corn yield (10 m footprint) (t ha1 )
Plant establishment (two-row average) (no. of plants m1 row)

AFP: air-filled porosity; PR: cone penetration resistance


a Independent variables in COUNT analyses.
b Independent variables in YIELD analyses.
c Dependent variables in multivariate statistical analyses.

Regression tree analysis was also used in the


manner described above, to predict YIELD from
LLWR, temperature, and cropping variables given
in Table 2. This analysis was intended to: (i) uncover important growth-stage specific links between
YIELD and LLWR variables, and (ii) identify appropriate yield-integrating LLWR indicators of
tillage/trafficking/cropping effects on soil physical
properties for different seasonal conditions. Simple
non-parametric correlation analyses using inter-nodal
dependent and independent data were also used to help
gain insights into variable interactions and processes.

3. Results and discussion


3.1. Weather conditions for 2000 and 2001
Year 2000 and 2001 were considered effectively
wetter and cooler and warmer and drier, respectively (Figs. 3 and 4). Average minimum and maximum temperatures between DAPs 1 and 130 were
11.1 and 22.8 C, respectively, for 2000, and 11.9 and
25.2 C, respectively, for 2001. Total precipitation for
this period was 288 mm for 2000 and 205 mm for
2001. Droughty conditions occurred roughly between

2000 precipitation (mm)


o
& air temperature ( C)

60

2001 precipitation (mm)


o
& air temperature ( C)

D.R. Lapen et al. / Soil & Tillage Research 78 (2004) 151170

60

157

Precip.
Max. temp.
Min. temp.

50
40

Planting

Killing frost

30
20
10
0

Planting

50

Maturity

40
30
20
10
0
0

50

100

150

Days after planting


Fig. 3. Weather information collected at Winchester site (2000 and 2001).

DAP 65 and DAP 135 for 2001. The corn heat units
(CHU) at V6, R1, and R6 stages of corn development
for 2000 and 2001 are given in Table 3.
3.2. Corn establishment and yield
In 2000, planting was delayed to day of year
(DOY) 152 as a result of wet soil conditions just prior
to planting (Fig. 3). Plant establishment (COUNT)
reflected relative corn yield (YIELD) differences between treatments (Fig. 5). The correlation between
COUNT and YIELD for 2000 was 0.69 (significance
0.05 level). Moreover, plant establishment, hence
yield, was generally greater for tilled treatments than
no-tilled treatments. Yields were also consistently

lower in the worst managed treatments, relative to


respective (till, no-till) best managed treatments.
For 2001, planting occurred on DOY 129, and planting conditions were considered by the farm managers
(B. Dow and M. Edwards, personal communication,
2001) to be excellent. The COUNT versus YIELD correlation for 2001 was 0.33 (significance 0.05 level).
Highest relative yields in 2001 could be found in both
tilled and no-till sites.
3.3. Soil water estimation, porosity, O2
concentrations, and LLWR threshold values
Desorption curve data indicated that a WC of
0.11 m3 m3 was an effective PWP for all plots.

Table 3
Corn heat units (CHUa ) at various stages of corn development for 2000 and 2001
Growth stage

DAP 2000

DAP 2001

CHU 2000

CHU 2001

V6 (sixth leaf)
R1 (silking)
R6 (maturity)

39
77
118b

51
79
125

773
1672
2391b

941
1597
2633

a
b

CHU = (1.8(daily min. temp 4.4) + 3.3(daily max temp 10) 0.084(daily max temp 10)2 )/2.
Corn did not really mature naturally due to killing frost on DAP (days after planting) 118.

D.R. Lapen et al. / Soil & Tillage Research 78 (2004) 151170

Total precip. (mm)

158

150
2000
2001
normal

100

50

40

Min. daily temp. (C )

20

Max. daily temp. (C )

15

2000
2001
normal

10
5
0

30

2000
2001
normal

20
10
0
May

June

July

Aug

Fig. 4. Comparisons of site-observed precipitation and temperature data with Environment Canada normals (19712000) for Kemptville
(latitude 45 00 , longitude 75 38 ) weather station.

-1
Corn yield (t ha ) and
-1
Established plants (count m row length)

10
Yield (2000)
Yield (2001)
Establish. (2000)
Establish. (2001)

N=8 sites per plot

0
BNTCC BNTC

BTC

BTCC

WNTCC WNTC

WTC

WTCC

Fig. 5. Average and standard deviation of corn grain yields and corn plant establishment (measured approximately 1 month after planting)
at in situ soil O2 measurement plus additional soil sampling sites.

D.R. Lapen et al. / Soil & Tillage Research 78 (2004) 151170


Table 4
Greatest air-filled porosities (m3 m3 ) observed with O2 concentrations <0.02 kg O2 m3 soil at 0.10 m depth for growing season
observations between 1997 and 2001
Plot

O2

AFP

No-till
BNTCC
BNTC
WNTC
WNTCC

0.018
0.016
0.018
0.019

0.09
0.10
0.09
0.09

Till
BTCC
BTC
WTC
WTCC

0.017
0.019
0.016
0.019

0.08
0.08
0.08
0.08

Table 4 indicates that the highest AFP observed to be


associated with O2 concentrations 0.02 kg O2 m3
soil were exclusively 0.10 m3 m3 . Thus, these experimental porosity thresholds were consistent with
the engineering criterion that an AFP of 0.1 m3 m3
is a practical threshold for waterlogging (Glinski and
Stepniewski, 1985).
Plots of O2 concentrations versus AFPs, for each
plot, are given in Fig. 6 and descriptive statistics are
given in Table 5. The relationships indicate that, on
average, no-till soils had lower average AFPs and O2
concentrations than respective tilled plots for both
years of study. Overall, no-tilled plots for 2000, in
particular WNTCC, had the lowest average values.
Potential trafficking effects were most evident in
no-till relative to till; worst managed no-tilled plots
had lower AFP and O2 concentration averages than
respective best managed no-till plots for both years

159

of study. For 2001 tilled plots, there was some discrimination among treatments. The BTC (2001) represented the highest average AFP and O2 concentrations
observed during both years of study for till and no-till
plots. Basically the slopes and linearity of the O2 concentration/AFP data emphasize soil physical factors
as important aeration constraints near the surface.
Multivariate adaptive regression spline analyses suggested that soil consolidation occurred after
spring planting for tilled plots. No-till bulk densities
were constant statistically over the growing season.
Piece-wise regression fits for tilled plot bulk densities
(00.15 m depth) showed gradual increases from DAP
1 to approximately DAP 42 at rates of 0.985 103
and 0.230 102 Mg m3 per day for best and
worst managed plots, respectively (Lapen et al., in
press). After DAP 42, bulk densities remained constant statistically at associated DAP 42 values until
fall cultivation. The R2 and standard error of regression values for the best and worst tilled plot
piece-wise regression models were 0.41 (0.05) and
0.34 (0.06), respectively. Site-specific post-DAP 42
bulk density averages were used as values to back estimate daily bulk densities between DAP 1 and 42 using approaches described above. These estimated bulk
densities were used to calculate daily AFPs. All bulk
density samples were collected with a precision of
approximately 0.05 Mg m3 . Generally, bulk densities collected at this site have a coefficient of variation
around 5% (Lapen et al., 2002b). The models used
to predict daily PR (MPa) had R2 values greater than
0.65 and standard errors of regression less than 0.83.
See Lapen et al. (in press) for details of analysis.

Table 5
Rounded average and standard deviations (parenthesis) of observed O2 concentrations (kg O2 m3 soil at 0.1 m depth) and associated AFP
(m3 m3 ) for 2000 and 2001 (see Fig. 6)
Plot

O2 (2000)

AFP (2000)

O2 (2001)

AFP (2001)

No-till
BNTCC
BNTC
WNTC
WNTCC

0.04
0.04
0.03
0.03

(0.01)
(0.01)
(0.01)
(0.01)

0.13
0.16
0.11
0.09

(0.04)
(0.04)
(0.03)
(0.03)

0.04
0.06
0.04
0.03

(0.02)
(0.02)
(0.01)
(0.02)

0.14
0.21
0.15
0.11

(0.06)
(0.05)
(0.05)
(0.06)

Till
BTCC
BTC
WTC
WTCC

0.05
0.04
0.05
0.04

(0.01)
(0.01)
(0.01)
(0.01)

0.17
0.14
0.17
0.13

(0.03)
(0.04)
(0.06)
(0.02)

0.04
0.09
0.05
0.07

(0.01)
(0.02)
(0.02)
(0.02)

0.16
0.33
0.17
0.27

(0.05)
(0.07)
(0.06)
(0.08)

Bold values = lowest averages for given year/soil variable/tillage treatment.

160

D.R. Lapen et al. / Soil & Tillage Research 78 (2004) 151170

Fig. 6. Measured air-filled porosity vs. O2 concentrations at in situ soil O2 concentration measurement sites for each plot at 0.1 m depth
during 2000 and 2001.

The linear regressions used to predict site-specific


measured soil WC at non-O2 measurement sites
(0.060.12 m) from soil water model predictions
(0.060.12 m) (Tsuji et al., 1994) had generally high
R2 values and modest standard errors (Table 6). For
comparison purposes in subsequent analyses, daily
soil WC at each O2 measurement site were predicted
via the manner described above. Water content support information for linear regression modeling was
greater, relative to non-instrumented sites, for each
site (N > 35) for each plot for each year. The R2
between modeled (Tsuji et al., 1994) and observed
daily soil WC for all sites were >0.85 with standard
errors <0.03.

measurement sites (N = 8 per plot per year). Both


2000 and 2001 observations were lumped together
for RTA in an attempt to identify temporally robust
LLWR soil quality indicators of COUNT. The tree

3.4. Planting-to-V6 stage LLWR versus plant


establishment relationships
Establishment (COUNT) versus planting-to-V6
stage variable (Table 2) associations were examined
for the in situ O2 measurement plus the additional soil

Table 6
Average and standard deviations (parenthesis) (for both years) of
regression parameters derived from predicting site-specific soil
water contents from the Tsuji et al. (1994) soil water estimates
Plot

R2

No-till
BNTCC
BNTC
WNTC
WNTCC

0.72
0.89
0.73
0.77

(0.12)
(0.07)
(0.17)
(0.13)

0.03
0.02
0.03
0.03

(0.01)
(0.01)
(0.01)
(0.01)

Till
BTCC
BTC
WTC
WTCC

0.79
0.67
0.81
0.78

(0.16)
(0.27)
(0.15)
(0.20)

0.02
0.04
0.04
0.02

(0.01)
(0.02)
(0.01)
(0.02)

Standard error

Note: there were approximately 13 observations per measurement


site (N = 7) per plot.

D.R. Lapen et al. / Soil & Tillage Research 78 (2004) 151170

161

N1: V6AFP 1.9


Avg.=4.4 (1.3)
N=128
V6AFPDAY>6 (55%)
N2: V6TEMP 677.0
Avg.=3.5 (1.4)
N=54
V6AFPDAY 41 (18%)
N3: V6AFP -1.1
Avg.=3.1(1.3)
N=44
V6AFPDAY>38 (68%)

TN1
Avg.=2.2 (1.2)
N=9

TN4
Avg.=5.0 (0.3)
N=10

N4: V6AFP 4.8


Avg.=5.1 (0.6)
N=74
V6AFPDAY>2.0 (9%)

TN3
Avg.=4.9 (0.5)
N=34

TN5
Avg.=5.4 (0.5)
N=40

TN2
Avg.=3.4 (1.3)
N=35

Fig. 7. Regression tree predicting COUNT (nodal average (standard deviation) and N = number of observations) from LLWR, cropping,
and soil temperature information. Observations that meet node splitting definitions (bold) occur in subsequent left-hand observation group
(node); rest of observations go to subsequent right-hand node. N1, N2, N3, etc. refer to node numbers. TN1, TN2, TN3, etc. refer to
terminal nodes (no further splitting of observations occurs). Terminal node numbers are based on ranking the COUNT averages for all
terminal nodes so that the lowest average is for TN1 and highest average is for TN5. Surrogate variable split definitions for nodes are in
italics, and surrogate split improvement scores are presented as a percentage of the primary split improvement score for that node.

model (Fig. 7) had an R2 of approximately 0.62 and


the second lowest CVRE (0.60), relative to the lowest
CVRE (0.58) produced by a four-terminal node model
(considered to simplistic for heuristic purposes) in
the tree building procedure. Surrogate variable splits
in the tree had modest improvement scores relative to
associated primary variable splitting criteria.
Fig. 7 indicates that the 128 initial COUNT observations used as model input were initially split
on the basis of V6AFP = 1.9 m3 m3 day. The R2
at this step in tree was 0.40. Sites in N4 with values >1.9 m3 m3 day (higher average daily AFP) had
an average COUNT of 5.1 (standard deviation =
0.6) plants m1 row, while for node 2 (V6AFP
1.9 m3 m3 day), the average and standard deviation
of COUNT was 3.5(1.4) plants m1 row. The correlation coefficient between COUNT and V6AFP for all
sites was 0.58 (significance 0.05 level) (R = 0.64 for
2000 and 0.46 for 2001). AFP was clearly more limiting on establishment during the wetter year. Corn
plants < V2 stage (two-leaf) are sensitive to low AFP
and can be severely injured if subjected to near-zero

O2 concentrations for more than 24 h. Node 4 (N4) observations split on the basis of V6AFP = 4.8 m3 m3
day, and TN3 and TN5 had COUNT averages of 4.9
(0.5) and 5.4 (0.5) plants m1 row, respectively. On a
global basis, sites with V6AFP > 4.8 m3 m3 day had
the highest average COUNT for both years of study.
The N2 split criteria, V6TEMP = 677 C day, effectively subdivided N2 observations into cooler (2000)
(N3) and warmer (2001) (TN4) soil temperature data
sets. Reduced soil temperatures during emergence
periods can increase time required for seedling emergence (Hayhoe et al., 1993), which can potentially
decrease establishment via longer seed exposure time
to soil pathogens. Node 3 data split on the basis of
V6AFP = 1.1 m3 m3 day where sites with V6AFP
values below or equal to this split value had the lowest average COUNT in the tree model. Sites in TN2
had a marginally better average COUNT than TN1.
For each V6AFP split in the tree model, COUNT
averages were exclusively lower for sites with V6AFP
values lower than the associated split value, relative
to those for sites with V6AFP values above the split

162

D.R. Lapen et al. / Soil & Tillage Research 78 (2004) 151170

value. Stand establishments can be reduced under conditions of cool soil temperatures and high soil water contents (Herner, 1986). These results suggest that
V6AFP and to a lesser extent V6AFPDAY (dominant surrogate split variable in tree model) are potentially important indicators of establishment risk for
clay loam soils in eastern Ontario. Evidently, PR and
ROT were not as important statistically as AFP on
plant establishment in the tree model.
Table 7 summarizes how COUNT observations for
each treatment were delineated on the basis of regression tree terminal nodes. Observations in TN1 and
TN2 are exclusively 2000 data. Approximately, 78%
of TN1 observations occur in WNTCC. About 63%
of all TN2 observations were in no-till, and approximately 31% of TN2 observations were in WTC and
WTCC. For TN3, about 59% of the data were from
2001 and every treatment had observations represented
within it. Modal TN3 observations for 2001 originated
exclusively from no-till data sets indicating greater potential for poorer plant establishment, relative to tilled
plots, during the more optimal planting and plant establishment conditions in 2001. TN4 contained 2001
data exclusively, but no clear treatment associations
were evident. Approximately 75 and 50% of all (both
years) respective BTC and BTCC observations were
in TN5. Interestingly, 100% of WTCC 2001 data

occurred in TN5, albeit 88% of WTCC 2000 data


occurred in TN2.
The average spring total residual soil N was calculated for each subset of observations identified in
Table 7. Likely due to wetter pre-plant conditions
in 2000, average 2000 residual total N was in all
cases lower, relative to 2001, for respective treatments.
Although not tested, the formative impact of total
residual soil N on plant establishment was likely not
strong.
While no-till can be desirable with respect to
minimizing soil degradation, reducing erosion, and
sequestering of carbon, for example (Carter, 1994),
these results suggest that fall mouldboard plowing
and spring cultivation fostered better plant establishment on these cool and moist clay loam soils that
dominate much of eastern Ontario. For instance, 63%
of BTC observations during 2000 occurred in areas
that maintained the highest daily AFPs. The best
managed tilled plots were the only plots that did not
have modal nodal observations (Table 7) for 2000 and
2001 in TN1 and TN2. There is generally higher risk
of poor plant establishment in the worst managed
tilled plots, relative to the best managed tilled plots,
irrespective of the potential for the worst managed
plots to achieve relatively good plant establishment
during drier conditions.

Table 7
Number of COUNT observations (large font numbers) that occur in each terminal node (TN) in Fig. 7 for each corn management treatment
for both years of observation

Bolded and underscored large font numbers = modal nodal group for each respective treatment/year.
Double horizontal line = delineation of terminal nodes with below site average (above line) and above site average (below line) COUNT
values.
Smaller font values = average and standard deviations () of total residual spring soil N for respective sites (kg ha1 ).

D.R. Lapen et al. / Soil & Tillage Research 78 (2004) 151170

The essential findings above are supported by plots


of estimated daily AFPs at the in situ O2 measurement sites (Fig. 8). On average, AFPs at the no-till
sites between planting and V6 were lower, relative
to tilled sites. Worst managed tilled estimates tended
on average to have lower AFPs than best managed
tilled plots. The preferential trafficking that occurred
over the worst managed plots during conditions
when farmers in the region often work their fields
augmented the potential of the soil to achieve lower
relative AFPs by increasing surface bulk densities
as well as reducing air/water transmission properties
through surface sealing/smearing of the soil surface
(Wang et al., 1985; G.C. Topp, unpublished data).
With respect to bulk densities, relative soil compaction (measured/estimated maximum) was notably
higher in worst managed plots for specific tillage
treatments, compared to respective best managed
plots (Table 8). Moreover, no-till had higher average
relative compaction ratios than tilled plots. It should
be noted that maximum bulk densities for these soils
are achieved at water contents around 0.22 Mg Mg1 ,
whereas preferential trafficking was performed at
around a water content of 0.35 Mg Mg1 ; thus trafficking soils during wet, but not maximum bulk density optimal conditions, achieved undesirable effects
(smearing and sealing of surface) on surface soil
aeration and strength. Correlating evidence of soil
compaction over worst managed plots, relative to best
managed plots, was also presented by Lapen et al.
(2002a) where it was found that highest observed PR

163

values recorded over corn plots (0.050.10 m depth)


were predominately associated with worst managed
plots.
3.5. Growing season LLWR versus final yield
relationships
The R2 of the selected regression tree model (Fig. 9)
was 0.88 with the lowest observed CVRE in the
tree-building process. All YIELD data were initially
subdivided by R6-R1AFPDAY into lower yielding
(>11 days) and higher yielding (11 days) groups.
Given that V6AFP processes were linked to COUNT,
the correlation between YIELD and V6AFPDAY, and
V6AFPDAY and R6-R1AFPDAY was 0.52 and
0.67 (significance 0.05 level), respectively. The dominant N1 surrogate variable (R6AFPDAY) underscores
associations of growing season AFP conditions on
YIELD. Node 2 observations were subdivided by
years in corn. The YIELD average for 1 year corn observations was approximately 1.6 t ha1 greater than
that for the continuous corn group. Node 2 represented
modest surrogate split variable improvement scores
and absolute correlation coefficients between YIELD
and independent variables for N2 observations were
<0.25. Node 3 was split by V6PR = 41.5 MPa
day into terminal nodes 6 and 4. The yield average
was 1.3 t ha1 greater where V6PR was less than the
split value indicating potential PR limitations to yield
for N3 observations. To underscore the statistical
importance of V6PR on YIELD, maximum absolute

Table 8
Rounded average and standard deviations (parenthesis) of relative compaction for plots for 2000 and 2001
Plot

Planting (2000)

Planting (2001)

R6 (2000)

R6 (2001)

No-till
BNTCC
BNTC
WNTC
WNTCC

0.91
0.85
0.92
0.95

(0.02)
(0.02)
(0.01)
(0.01)

0.84
0.91
0.88
0.94

(0.05)
(0.02)
(0.05)
(0.02)

0.91
0.85
0.92
0.95

(0.02)
(0.02)
(0.01)
(0.01)

0.84
0.91
0.88
0.94

(0.05)
(0.02)
(0.05)
(0.02)

Till
BTCC
BTC
WTC
WTCC

0.82
0.80
0.84
0.86

(0.02)
(0.01)
(0.02)
(0.02)

0.82
0.83
0.85
0.84

(0.04)
(0.02)
(0.04)
(0.02)

0.85
0.82
0.90
0.91

(0.02)
(0.01)
(0.02)
(0.02)

0.83
0.85
0.90
0.88

(0.04)
(0.02)
(0.04)
(0.02)

Values are averages of observed bulk densities divided by an estimated maximum bulk density (approximately 1.56 Mg m3 ). Bold values
= highest ratios for given year, growth stage, and tillage treatment. N = 24 observations per value. Note: no-till bulk densities were
exclusively R6 values as they were statistically indifferent from those at planting.

D.R. Lapen et al. / Soil & Tillage Research 78 (2004) 151170

0.4

BNTCC

AFP 2000
AFP 2001
PR 2001

R1 (00)

AFP (m

-3

PR 2000

0.3

V6 (00)

0.2

PR limit
Aeration
limit

0.1
0.0
0.4

BNTC

R1 (01)

V6 (01)

BTCC

0
BTC

PR (MPa)

164

3
AFP (m

0.2

3
2

0.1

PR (MPa)

-3

6
0.3

1
0.0
0.4

0
WNTCC

WNTC

3
AFP (m

0.2

3
2

0.1

PR (MPa)

-3

6
0.3

1
0.0
0.4

0
WTC

WTCC

5
4

0.2

3
2

0.1

1
0

0.0
0

20

40

60

80

100 120 140 160

Days after planting

20

40

60

80

100 120 140 160

Days after planting

Fig. 8. Estimated daily AFP and PR trends at in situ O2 measurement sites for 2000 and 2001.

PR (MPa)

AFP (m 3 m -3 )

6
0.3

D.R. Lapen et al. / Soil & Tillage Research 78 (2004) 151170

165

N1: R6-R1AFPDAY 11
Avg.=5.6 (1.8)
N=125
R6AFPDAY<=45 (78%)
N7: R1AFP -2.0
Avg.=3.0 (1.5)
N=22
V6AFP -2.2 (66%)

N2: ROT=0
Avg.=6.2 (1.4)
N=103
R6PRDAY>72 (26%)
N3: V6PR -41.5
Avg.=5.2 (0.9)
N=41
V6PRDAY 6 (70%)

TN6
Avg.=5.6 (0.7)
N=28

TN4
Avg.=4.3 (0.8)
N=13

N4: R6-R1AFP4.5
Avg.=6.8 (1.2)
N=62
R6AFP 9.4 (68%)
N5: V6PR -44.5
Avg.=5.5 (0.9)
N=22
V6AFP 1.2 (54%)

TN7
Avg.=5.8 (0.8)
N=15

TN5
Avg.=4.8 (0.3)
N=7

TN1
Avg.=0.3 (0.5)
N=4

N6: R6AFP 25.5


Avg.=7.5 (0.7)
N=40
V6AFP 7.2 (87%)

TN8
Avg.=7.3 (0.6)
N=32

N8: R6-R1AFPDAY15.5
Avg.=3.6 (0.8)
N=18
V6PR>-60.5 (35%)

TN3
Avg.=4.2 (0.5)
N=9

TN2
Avg.=2.9 (0.5)
N=9

TN9
Avg.=8.2 (0.7)
N=8

Fig. 9. Regression tree predicting YIELD (nodal average (standard deviation) and N = number of observations) from LLWR, cropping,
and soil temperature information. Observations that meet node splitting definitions (bold) occur in subsequent left-hand observation group
(node); rest of observations go to subsequent right-hand node. N1, N2, N3, etc. refer to node numbers. TN1, TN2, TN3, etc. refer to
terminal nodes (no further splitting of observations occurs). Terminal node numbers are based on ranking the YIELD averages for all
terminal nodes so that the lowest average is for TN1 and highest average is for TN9. Surrogate variable split definitions for nodes are in
italics and surrogate split improvement scores are presented as a percentage of the primary split improvement score for that node.

correlations between AFP variables versus V6PR,


and AFP variables versus YIELD were 0.16 and 0.19,
respectively.
The corn in rotation data in N4 was subdivided by
a variable split of R6-R1AFP = 4.5 m3 m3 day. For
N4 observations, the correlations between the AFP
variables and R6-R1AFP, and correlations between
YIELD and the AFP variables were very strong. Moreover, the correlation between YIELD and COUNT for
N4 observations was 0.71 (significance 0.05 level),
indicating strong plant establishment constraints on
yield. The data in the R6-R1AFP 4.5 m3 m3 day
group (N5) were further split into TN7 and TN5 on
the basis of V6PR = 44.5 MPa day; in a nature
similar to the N3 split. The N6 YIELD average was
around 2 t ha1 greater than that for N5. Highest average YIELD terminal nodes in the tree were TN8 and
TN9. These terminal nodes effectively represented
relatively high AFP conditions for corn in rotation
during the study period (hence the N6 primary split
definition and its very strong surrogate split (V6AFP)).
The strong V6AFP surrogate variable for N6 suggests importance of early season AFP yield-limiting
conditions.

The N7 data stratified on the basis of R1AFP =


2.0 m3 m3 day. For sites with R1AFP 2.0 m3
m3 day, extremely low yields were observed.
Strongest correlations between AFP variables and
YIELD were those expressing cumulative difference
between daily AFP and threshold. The correlations
for N7 data between R1AFP and other threshold difference AFP variables were very strong (e.g., R1AFP
versus R6AFP and R1AFP versus V6AFP; R = 0.99
and 0.88 (significance 0.05 level), respectively) and
correlations between YIELD and COUNT was 0.67
(significance 0.05 level) suggesting that soil conditions at times prior to V6 were formative for yields.
The N8 data split on the basis of R6-R1AFPDAY =
16 days where sites with R6-R1AFPDAY between
11 and 16 days represented the highest average yield
of all N7 observations. Correlations between YIELD
and COUNT for N8 observations was 0.44, relative
to 0.67 (significance 0.05 level) for N7.
The important tree model LLWR variables were
those expressing, at a minimum, time growth stages
between R1 and R6; even though as indicated, establishment (<V6) was often yield formative (average
and standard deviation V6AFPDAY for N2 and N7

166

D.R. Lapen et al. / Soil & Tillage Research 78 (2004) 151170

was 5 (9) and 27 (13) days, respectively, and the correlation between V6AFPDAY and R6-R1AFPDAY
was 0.67 (significance 0.05 level)). The top five variables (out of 24 independent variables) in the tree
model, in order of standardized importance were:
R6AFP (100%), R6-R1AFPDAY (95%), R6-R1AFP
(93%), V6AFP (79%), and R6AFPDAY (73%). In
several cases, indicators including R1-to-R6 conditions effectively delineated 2000 (wetter and lower
yielding) and 2001 (drier and higher yielding) data.
Table 9 indicates that TN1 observations were
exclusively in WNTCC (2000), while 78% of TN2
observations were in BNTCC (2000). Terminal node
3 observations were dominated by WTCC (2000),
suggesting that surface compaction/sealing and continuous corn can potentially restrict aeration of conventional tilled soils. The TN4 group represented the
lowest average yields for 2001, which were primarily
in BNTCC (31% of observations) and WNTCC (54%

of observations). For lower occurrences of exceeding


later season daily AFP thresholds (N1 split), these
tillage/cropping practices were associated, in a relative sense, with lower yielding corn, as apparently
associated with soils of higher relative strength early
in the growing season. Negative spatial associations
between PR patterns and corn yield/plant establishment at the site were documented by Turpin et al.
(2003) and Lapen et al. (2001); higher PR areas with
higher relative water contents were lower yielding
sites. Seed soil contact after planting was also problematic in these harder soil areas as noted by farm
managers. Terminal node 5 observations were exclusively located in WTC (2000), where planting-to-V6
PR was generally higher than that for the TN7 group
of data (primarily BNTC (2000) and WNTC (2000)
data). For TN6, a majority of observations occurred
in BTCC (2000, 2001) (57% of all observations) and
WTCC (2001) (29% of observations).

Table 9
Number of YIELD observations that occur in each terminal node (TN) in Fig. 9 for each corn management treatment for both years of
observation

Bolded and underscored large font numbers = modal nodal group for each respective treatment/year.
Double horizontal line = delineation of terminal nodes with below site average (above line) and above site average (below line) YIELD
values.
Smaller font values = average and standard deviations () of total residual spring soil N for respective sites (kg ha1 ).
Note: 2 missing data for BNTCC for 2001.

D.R. Lapen et al. / Soil & Tillage Research 78 (2004) 151170

Terminal nodes 7, 8, and 9 represented groups of


observations, exclusively for corn in rotation, with
YIELD averages above the total site-wide YIELD average of 5.6 t ha1 . Residual spring total N was not
dramatically different between continuous and corn
in rotation for the treatments for both years of study.
However, nitrate reduction dramatically increases at
AFP values of 0.1 m3 m3 (Pilot and Patrick, 1972)
and lower soil temperatures, lower crop heat units, and
leaching of N in 2000 likely constrained final yields
(Turpin et al., 2003).
Vyn and Raimbault (1993) noted that for long-term
corn monoculture soils in no-till, higher soil resistance,
higher bulk densities, and lower proportions of fine aggregates were observed relative to mouldboard plowing. Wang et al. (1985) noted that monoculture of corn
for >5 years usually produced marked compaction at
0.100.25 m depth on clayey soils. Terminal node 7
was represented primarily by no-till corn in rotation
observations for both trafficking treatments (87% of
observations). Terminal node 8 effectively represented
the highest yields of 2000 (in BTC where AFP constraints on aeration were not considerable) and above
average yields for 2001. Thus, even for drier growing
seasons, AFP appeared to be statistically important
with respect to crop performance even for trafficked
tilled plots. The highest nodal YIELD average was primarily composed of BTC (2001) observations where
AFP conditions over the entire growing season were
effectively highest. The essential findings in Table 9

167

are supported by estimated AFP and PR growing season trends at the in situ O2 measurement sites (Fig. 8),
where it was found that the predicted BTC daily AFPs
for 2000 and 2001 never dropped below the aeration
AFP value, implying that the BTC site, relative to the
other plot sites, had most favorable aeration conditions. Of all plots, potential aeration constraints were
most strongly expressed at WNTCC.
Fig. 10 illustrates differences in planting-to-R6
stage LLWR AFP indicators for the plots. No-till plots
for respective traffic treatments exhibited greater potential for low AFP relative to respective conventional
tillage and cropping system counterparts. Moreover,
75% of the continuous corn versus corn in rotation
comparisons for respective treatments for both years
showed that continuous corn plots had larger percentages of days where daily AFP was less than threshold
values, and also generally smaller cumulative differences between daily AFP and AFP thresholds.
Nevertheless, these findings must be interpreted in
context of water uptake (or lack of it) by affected
crops impacting AFP over the growing season, identified context dependent soil physical limitations over
that period, and AFP controls on establishment.
3.6. Overview of the LLWR approach
The corn growth stage LLWR indicator approach,
employing dynamic changes in bulk density and
soil strength over the growing season (Lapen et al.,

110
100

R6AFP (2000)
R6AFPDAY (2000)
R6AFP (2001)
R6AFPDAY (2001)

90

-3

70
60

R6AFP (m m ) and
R6AFPDAY (days)

80

50

N=8 sites per plot


per year observation.

40
30
20
10
0
-10
BNTCC BNTC

BTC

BTCC

WNTC WNTCC WTC

WTCC

Fig. 10. Average and standard deviation of planting-to-R6 LLWR AFP indicators for each plot for 2000 and 2001.

168

D.R. Lapen et al. / Soil & Tillage Research 78 (2004) 151170

in press), was effective at identifying potential soil


quality constraints to corn growth as a result of various tillage, trafficking, and cropping systems. The
statistical analyses consistently reinforced dominant
context-dependent (spatially and temporally specific)
positive associations between daily AFP and corn
growth properties, and negative associations between
soil strength and corn properties.
In situ O2 concentration/soil water content measurements indicated that no-till soils had lower average AFPs and O2 concentrations than respective tilled
plots for both years of study. Potential trafficking effects on aeration properties were most evident in no-till
relative to till; worst managed no-tilled plots had
lower AFP and O2 concentration averages than respective best managed no-till plots for both years of
study. Overall, the best managed conventional tilled
soils had most favorable aeration properties.
Corn establishment limitations observed for drier
and wetter planting-to-V6 stage soil conditions
were explained primarily from LLWR variables expressing the cumulative difference between estimated
daily AFPs and LLWR aeration thresholds between
planting and V6 stage (best early season indicator).
AFP was positively related to the establishment. Soil
strength factors were not found to be as statistically
important as aeration constraints in plant establishment for the clay-silty loam field soils, although soil
strength indicators reflecting higher soil densities have
been found to be spatially associated with aeration
problem areas (intrinsically higher water contents)
at the site (Turpin et al., 2003). Higher risk (below
average establishments) management practices during
wetter conditions were found to be most strongly
associated with (i) no-tilling and (ii) worst managed
conventional tilling. For drier conditions, higher
risk management practices were predominately worst
managed no-tilling. Tillage reduced the risk of lower
plant populations during drier early season conditions,
but was less effective at increasing AFPs of trafficked
soils.
The LLWR indicators that best explained yield
variability were based primarily on soil AFP conditions over many different primary (V6, R1, and R6)
corn growth stages. Where cumulative differences
between predicted AFP and aeration thresholds were
relatively small or negative, and/or where the number
of days the daily AFP was lower than the aeration

limit was greater, yields were generally lower. Soil


strength (planting-to-V6) (negative PR versus YIELD
relationships) and years in corn (lower yields in
continuous corn) were statistically relevant factors
predicting yield, but were considerably less important
than LLWR AFP indicators for both years of study.
For wetter conditions, lower than average yields
were most strongly associated with (i) no-tilling (continuous corn), (ii) best managed conventional tilling
(continuous corn), and (iii) worst managed conventional tilling. For drier conditions, lower than average yields were most strongly associated with (i)
no-tilling (continuous corn), (ii) best managed conventional tilling (continuous corn), and (iii) worst
managed tilling (continuous corn). Notwithstanding
N limitations to corn growth, for clay loam soils that
dominate much of the corn growing area in eastern
Ontario, Canada, aeration limitations, even under
tile-drained fields, can be problematic with respect to
yield.

4. Conclusions
The data mining analyses indicated that the most
important LLWR indicators of yield were those that
expressed, at a minimum, AFP conditions for time periods between R1 and R6 stage. However, the importance of these yield indicators was manifested via an
unknown combination of plant water uptake relationships (higher yielding crops have greater uptake), and
the various establishment and post-establishment soil
physical limitations to corn growth. Specific identification of cause and effect relationships requires additional analyses. This work does, however, suggest that
the LLWR has great potential as an indicator of soil
quality and crop production.

Acknowledgements
Funding for this project was provided in part by
Ontario Corn Producers Association. We wish to
thank Mark Edwards, Bryan Dow, Mark Sunohara,
Patrick St. George, Ulrica Stoklas, Karine Turpin,
and Robyn Auld for field, technical, and laboratory
support.

D.R. Lapen et al. / Soil & Tillage Research 78 (2004) 151170

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