Controlled traffic and soil physical quality of an Oxisol under sugarcane cultivation


Sci. agric. (Piracicaba, Braz.)




Machinery traffic in sugarcane (Saccharumsp.) plantations reduces soil physical quality, and hinders both root development and crop yield. We evaluated the physical quality of an Oxisol and the development of sugarcane roots under controlled traffic. The treatments assessed were: without controlled machinery traffic (WCT), controlled traffic by adjusting the tractor and infield wagons to a 3.0 m track width with the operator guiding the machinery (CT1) and the previous treatment using real time kinematic / global positioning system (RTK / GPS) precision auto steer (CT2). Soil samples were collected from the planting rows, seedbed and inter-row center to determine the least limiting water range (LLWR) and soil porosity from scanned 2-D images. The root dry mass was sampled from monoliths, separated from the soil by washing through a 2-mm sieve and dried in an oven. A higher LLWR was observed in the planting row under CT1 and CT2 than under WCT. The planting row had a predominance of complex pores with a diameter > 500 µm in the 0.15-0.27 m depth layer under CT1 and CT2. In the planting rows under WCT, the root dry mass was only 44 % of that measured under CT2. Benefits regarding soil physical quality and growth roots were observed when the tractor-wagon track width was adjusted based on the sugarcane spacing using either precision auto steering or manual operation of the machinery.

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