The Journal of Agricultural Science

Crops and Soils

Performance of conventional and alternative cropping systems in cryoboreal subhumid central Alberta

R. C. Izaurraldea1, N. G. Jumaa1, W. B. McGilla1, D. S. Chanasyka1, S. Pawluka1 and M. J. Dudasa1

a1 Department of Soil Science, University of Alberta, 4–42 Earth Sciences Building, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T6G 2E3


A 3-year field study (1986–88) was conducted in central Alberta to discover how diverse soil-plant systems function under cryoboreal subhumid conditions. Barley, fescue, faba (field) bean and a barley/field pea intercrop were grown continuously on different soils at Ellerslie and Breton using two distinct tillage methods. The agronomic performance, weed-crop interactions and below-ground productivity of these cropping systems were examined. The main findings were as follows: different soil properties did not affect yields of barley, barley/field pea and fescue fertilized with N and P; silage yield of faba bean at Breton was greater than at Ellerslie; barley/field pea and faba bean could be grown without tillage at Ellerslie; barley/field pea plots had the lowest weed counts; fescue root biomass was greatest at all depths followed by faba bean and barley; and soil properties appeared not to induce differences in root production of a cereal, an annual forage legume and a perennial grass. Increasing the use of annual legumes into rotations, either as sole crops or as intercrops with cereals, may be a viable alternative to continuous cereal cropping because annual legumes contribute N through biological N fixation, reduce weed competition and increase the input of root mass in soil.

(Received June 05 1992)