Soil, nutrient, and water management

Improved crop and nutrient management for efficient use of residual soil moisture and nutrients under rainfed lowland rice fallow conditions
A. Ghosh Central Rice Research Institute, Cuttack 753006, India

The rich natural resources in the rainfed medium-deep (0–50 cm) lowland ecology could not be properly exploited with rice monocropping alone. For ages, farmers have practiced monocropping. But, even if they do grow medium- to short-duration crops after rice, they follow this culture inconsistently. Nonetheless, mere broadcast seeding of crops under no or suboptimal management results in meager yields and this necessitates improved crop and nutrient management approaches (Ghosh 2002). Efficient natural resource management using leftover soil moisture and nutrients that remain in the soil after the preceding rice crop could turn lowland rice farming into a profitable enterprise (Maclean et al 2002). This study, carried out from 2007 to 2009 at the Central Rice Research Institute, Cuttack, India, aimed to develop improved agromanagement practices, giving farmers better rice fallow management options in order to enhance the total system productivity of this complex, diverse, and riskprone ecology. In the initial year, short- to medium-duration legumes such as chickpea, green gram, cowpea, and horsegram were grown in rice fallow to assess their adaptability and efficacy. Of the various crops evaluated, green gram (Phaseolus radiatus) and cowpea (Vigna unguiculata) showed promise. They were further assessed under residual soil moisture conditions in 2008 and 2009, comparing improved crop and nutrient management with the farmers’ practice. Under the improved management scheme, green gram and cowpea seeds were sown in late December (after the preceding rice crop was harvested) at 15 and 25 kg ha–1, maintaining 30 × 10 cm and 30 × 15 cm spacing, respectively. Soil at the experimental site was sandy clay loam (Aric, Haplaquept). The preceding rice was treated with 60-30-30 kg NPK ha–1 and the residual soil (pH 5.8) had 0.83% organic C, 0.09% total N, 22 kg P ha–1, and 128 kg K ha–1. Improved nutrient management—application of P and K at half the recommended dose (40 and 20 kg ha–1)—was compared with the farmers’

2011

International Rice Research Notes (0117-4185)

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Soil, nutrient, and water management

practice of broadcasting seed in soil with residual nutrients only. All fertilizers were applied during sowing. Treatment combinations were arranged in a splitplot design with crop type as the main plot and nutrient management as the subplot. There were five replications. The entire experiment was laid out in permanent plots that grow rice in the wet season and legumes in the dry season as per treatment combination. Growth and yield data were collected from both vegetative and reproductive stages and were subjected to standard analysis of variance using the statistical package CROPSTAT. Treatment differences were calculated using the least significant difference (LSD) test and compared at P<0.05 level of significance. To make the study more comprehensible to farmers, the usual empirical derivations showing intercropping advantages were not estimated; instead, system productivity of the rice-legume rotation and economic returns were determined. The good germination of green gram (80–85%) and cowpea (75–80%) seeds resulted in adequate crop emergence. The ambient soil moisture conditions prevailing in that fallow condition ensured an adequate amount for the crops’ vigorous growth. The residual soil moisture satisfactorily met the water needs of the plants across all growth stages until maturity. Crop growth was found satisfactory with improved crop and nutrient management, and this was more pronounced in cowpea. However, differences brought about by varying plant populations were not discernible (Table 1), implying that plant population may not necessarily depend on variable nutrient availability. Although total plant populations in larger areas remained the same in both cases, population density was not uniform in broadcast-sown crops across the field. As a result, improved crop and nutrient management considerably boosted plant vigor; both crops were significantly taller than broadcast-sown crops under residual fertility conditions. This may be attributed to the supplementary contribution of fertilizers applied ex situ, satisfying the “plant nutrient demand” during the growth period. Subsequently, the increase in plant height appreciably induced pod emergence (Yadav et al 2003). Nutrient management rather than residual fertility conditions induced pod setting in both crops, with a significantly greater number of effective pods observed in fertilized plants. Proper pod filling resulted in boldness of seed.

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International Rice Research Notes (0117-4185)

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Soil, nutrient, and water management

Table 1. Performance of green gram and cowpea grown under residual soil moisture and varying nutrient status in rainfed lowland rice fallow.
Growth and yield parameter Plant population m–2 (no.) 2008 2009 39 35 34 40 40 38 38 45 Plant height (cm) 2008 2009 28.6 140.8 75.5 87.8 30.5 145.0 80.4 90.3 Effective pods plant–1 (no.) 2008 2009 7 10 6 10 12 16 7 12 Seed yield (t ha–1) 2008 2009 1.02 1.26 0.97 1.31 1.12 1.36 1.05 1.45

Treatment Crop Green gram Cowpea Growing environment Farmers’ practice Improved crop & nutrient management CD (P = 0.05) Crop Nutrient status
ans

nsa ns

ns ns

10.22 10.50

9.35 9.50

0.66 0.70

0.70 0.75

0.016 0.018

0.021 0.025

= nonsignificant.

No significant variation in rice grain yield was seen, 4.50 and 5.25 t ha–1 across the year, while the yield of the succeeding legumes increased appreciably (Table 1). Cowpea consistently produced significantly more seed than green gram. Crops under improved crop and nutrient management significantly outyielded those under conventional management in both years. Supplementing nutritional demand with improved nutrient management enhanced the growth and yield of both crops (Ghosh and Jha 2002) (Table 1). The interaction of crops with improved management also revealed differential crop responses (Table 2). Cowpea was found responding better to improved management than green gram. This may be attributed to the variable growth patterns of the crops tested. Green gram, with its shorter growth duration, survived both nutrient conditions, so it could not respond proportionately to fertilizer application. In contrast, the longer growth duration of cowpea facilitated greater absorption and use of the applied nutrients; previously, it had poor growth and development, the consequence of inadequate nutrition as it depended on residual fertility alone. Across crops, improved crop and nutrient management resulted in 35% more yield compared with the farmers’ practice. Cowpea responded better to improved management, achieving more than 50% yield enhancement as compared with green gram’s 18%.

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International Rice Research Notes (0117-4185)

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Soil, nutrient, and water management

Table 2. Effect of crop and nutrient management interaction on seed yield (t ha–1) of green gram and cowpea.
Crop Growing environment Farmers’ practice Improved crop & nutrient management CD (P = 0.05) Between crops Between management Green gram 0.95 1.10 2008 Cowpea 1.00 1.53 Green gram 1.02 1.23 2009 Cowpea 1.08 1.65

0.045 0.050

0.037 0.030

Improved crop and nutrient management boosted crop growth and development in the rice-legume system, resulting in a 20–25% increase in total productivity compared with the farmers’ practice (Table 3). The effect was more pronounced when wet-season rice succeeded cowpea: there was about 30% more yield benefit than with green gram (12% yield benefit only).
Table 3. Total system productivity (t ha–1) of the rice-legume cropping system taking into account the rice equivalent yield of legumes under rainfed lowland rice ecology.a
Growing environment Cropping system Rice-green gram Rice-cowpea 2008 Farmers’ practice Improved crop & nutrient management 9.25 (4.50 + 4.75) 11.50 (4.50+7.0) 10.0 (4.50+5.50) 15.14 (4.50 +10.64) 2009 Farmers’ practice Improved crop & nutrient management 10.35 (5.25+5.10) 12.81 (5.25+7.56) 11.35 (5.25 +6.10) 16.80 (5.25+11.55)

aRice

t–1,

yield = 4.50 t ha–1 in 2008 and 5.25 t ha–1 in 2009. Prices: rice = $222 t–1, green gram = $1,111 cowpea = $1,555 t–1 (US$1.00 = Rs 45.00).

The study emphasizes the importance of identifying suitable crops vis-àvis improved crop and nutrient management to ensure higher seed yield under rainfed medium-deep lowland rice fallow. With cowpea, improved crop and

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International Rice Research Notes (0117-4185)

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Soil, nutrient, and water management

nutrient management could pay more dividends under this situation compared with green gram, which can be grown under input-limited conditions.

References
Ghosh A. 2002. Sustainable development of rice and rice-based production system with improved agro-technology under rainfed lowland ecology. In: Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Sustainable Agriculture for Food, Energy, and Industry. China. p 5. Ghosh A, Jha KP. 2002. Advances in rice production technology for rainfed lowland ecology in eastern India. Indian Farming 52:3-6. Maclean JL, Dawe DC, Hardy B, Hettel GP (editors). 2002. Rice almanac. Manila (Philippines): International Rice Research Institute. p 24. Yadav RS, Yadav PC, Dahama AK. 2003. Integrated nutrient management in wheat (Triticum aestivum) – mungbean (Phaseolus radiatus) cropping sequence in the arid region. Indian J. Agron. 48:23-26.

2011

International Rice Research Notes (0117-4185)

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