The Journal of Agricultural Science

Crops and Soils

Effects of Incorporating or Burning Straw, and of Different Cultivation Systems, on Winter Wheat Grown on Two Soil Types, 1985–91

R. D. Prewa1, J. E. Ashbya1, E. T. G. Bacona1, D. G. Christiana1, R. J. Gutteridgea1, J. F. Jenkyna1, W. Powella1 and A. D. Todda1

a1 Institute of Arable Crops Research, Rothamsted Experimental Station, Harpenden, Herts AL5 2JQ, UK


Disposal methods for straw from continuous winter wheat were tested on two soil types, a flinty silty clay loam and a sandy loam, over 7 years (1985–91). The methods tested were burnt or chopped straw in full factorial combination with four cultivation methods (tined to 10 cm, tined to 10 cm then to 20 cm; ploughed to 20 cm; tined to 10 cm then ploughed to 20 cm). Measurements were taken to determine the effects on crop establishment and growth, pest and disease incidence, and the consequent effects on yield. Another experiment (1985–91) on the flinty silty clay loam site, investigated the interactions between straw treatments (burnt, baled or chopped in plots that were all shallow cultivated to 10 cm) and five other factors; namely, time of cultivation, insecticides, molluscicides, fungicides and autumn nitrogen. All the straw x cultivation systems allowed satisfactory crops to be established but repeated incorporation of straw using shallow, non-inversion cultivations resulted in very severe grass-weed problems. Early crop growth, as measured by above-ground dry matter production, was frequently decreased by straw residues, but the effect rarely persisted beyond anthesis. Pests were not a problem and their numbers were not greatly affected either by straw or cultivation treatments, apart from yellow cereal fly which, especially on the heavier soil, was decreased by treatments which left much straw debris on the soil surface. Incorporating straw also caused no serious increases in the incidence of diseases. Indeed, averaged over all sites and years, eyespot and sharp eyespot were both slightly but significantly less severe where straw was incorporated than where it was burnt. Eyespot, and even more consistently sharp eyespot, were often more severe after ploughing than after shallow, non-inversion cultivations. Effects on take-all were complex but straw residues had much smaller effects than cultivations. Initially the disease increased most rapidly in the shallow cultivated plots but these also tended to go into the decline phase more quickly so that in the fourth year (fifth cereal crop) take-all was greater in the ploughed than in the shallow cultivated plots. On average, yields did not differ greatly with straw or cultivation systems, although there were clear effects of take-all in those years when the disease was most severe. In the last 2 years, yields were limited by the presence of grass weeds in the plots testing chopped straw incorporated by tining to 10 cm.

(Received July 07 1994)