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ISSN: 1927-1336 eISSN: 1927-1344





ELIMINATING SUMMER FALLOW AFFECTS SOIL MOISTURE
AND YIELDS OF WHEAT AND CHICKPEA CROPS IN RAINFED REGION

Abid Subhani, Muhammad Tariq, Abid Mahmood, Rizwan Latif and Muhammad Shahid Iqbal
Barani Agricultural Research Institute (BARI), Chakwal, Pakistan
Corresponding author: asubhani786@yahoo.com



ABSTRACT
Soil moisture is a major factor limiting crop intensity in the rainfed (Barani) areas with low and variable
annual rainfall. Experiments were conducted over five years with different crops and agronomic
practices to find a feasible cropping pattern that could enhance profitable crop intensity in these areas.
Wheat and chickpea were the main winter crops while summer treatments included four crops; mung
bean, mash bean, sorghum, millets, and three fallow treatments; weeds removed, weeds not removed,
and deep ploughed. Results confirmed a positive and significant relationship between gravimetric soil
water content over summer and the yield of wheat and chickpea crops in winter. Eliminating summer
fallow adversely affected wheat yield and economic return. Fallow deep ploughed treatment in the
preceding summer conserved better soil moisture and resulted in relatively higher wheat and chickpea
yield. Five years data showed maximum returns from summer fallow-deep ploughed and wheat crop in
winter. Second best combination was summer fallow-weed removed and wheat in winter. For chickpea
based system, mash bean chickpea cropping pattern provided higher annualized net return. The most
profitable crop rotation under rainfed conditions was summer fallow-deep ploughed wheat fallow-
weeds removed wheat.

Key words: crop intensity, rainfed, wheat, chickpea, crop rotation
Received: November 11, 2011; Accepted: March 1, 2012


INTRODUCTION
Monsoon regions have dry and wet
seasons, and crops are cultivated based on
available soil moisture (Devendra and Thomas
2002). Farmers generally resort to
monocultures in the major wet season, leave
fields fallow in the dry season that aggravates
problems like weeds in the following season
(Akobunbu et al. 1999).
Pothohar region of Pakistan is a semi
arid region and receives about 70% of the
precipitation in summer (June September).
Precipitation is limited and highly variable.
Traditional winter wheatfallow cropping
system helps stabilize yields (Haas et al. 1974;
Hinze and Smika 1983). This system includes
weed control through tillage during fallow
period that leaves the soil surface vulnerable
to soil loss and degradation by wind erosion,
and carries low precipitation storage
efficiency (Tanaka and Aase 1987; Farahani et
al. 1998a).
Biederbeck et al. (1998) proposed
legume cover crops during fallow period to
Plants & Environment 1: 1 7, 2012
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ISSN: 1927-1336 eISSN: 1927-1344
Subhani et al. Plants & Environment 1: 1 7, 2012
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protect soil erosion, provide organic matter,
and maintain soil fertility. Farahani et al.
(1998b) argued that inclusion of summer crop
like mung bean, mash bean, and sorghum in
rotation with wheat summer fallow, could
enhance efficient use of precipitation by
reducing the frequency of summer fallow. In
addition, it has potential to increase grain
yield, intensify dry land cropping system,
increase potentially active surface soil organic
matter and nitrogen (Peterson et al. 1998),
effectively control annual grass weeds in
winter wheat (Daugovish et al. 1999), increase
net return and reduce financial risk (Dhyvetter
et al. 1996). These findings point to the fact
that cropping pattern of the minor season
casts significant impact on the productivity of
the following major crop.
Experiments were, therefore, planned
to quantify production and economic effect of
replacing summer fallow with crops like mung
bean, millet or sorghum, on the subsequent
wheat and chickpea crops in winter.


MATERIALS AND METHODS

Location and climate
District Chakwal in Pakistan is located
at an elevation of 498 m above sea level at
32.55
o
N and 72.51
o
E. It is a semi-arid region
with annual average precipitation of 600 mm.

Methodology
Field experiments were established at
Barani Agricultural Research Institute (BARI),
Chakwal, Pakistan, from 2004 to 2009 on
sandy clay loam soil; deep well drained,
moderately structured, moderately alkaline
with no salinity or sodicity problem. There was
no significant change observed in the soil pH,
electrical conductivity, organic matter,
available nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and
potassium (K) before and after the
experiments (data not shown).
Seven summer treatments were
applied: mung bean (T1), mash bean (T2),
millets (T3), sorghum (T4), fallowweeds
removed (T5), fallowweeds not removed
(T6), and fallowdeep ploughed (T7). T6 and
T7 could not be included in 2004 season.
Mung bean, mash bean, sorghum and
millet were sown in the summer in a
randomized complete block arrangement with
three replications each year from 2004 to
2009. Three summer fallow treatments
included for comparison were weeds
removed, weeds not removed and a deep
ploughed. Weeds were removed manually
from the fallowweed removed treatment.
Individual plots measured 20 x 6 m. Before
sowing first summer crop treatment, soil
samples were drawn from the experimental
area in depth increment of 15 cm each up to
60 cm for gravimetric soil water content. Soil
nutrient analysis was done for first two
increments only. Soil samples were drawn
again after 15 days in a similar pattern.
Summer crop treatments received
recommended doses of NPK fertilizers. No
weedicide was applied.
Summer treatment plots were split in
half, one each for wheat and chickpea.
Summer and winter-sown crops were
threshed mechanically and yields were
adjusted to constant moisture content. The
composite soil samples taken after each crop
season were analyzed for pH, electrical
conductivity, organic matter, NPK using
procedures described by Anderson and
Ingram (1993). Annualized net return for each
summer crop, and subsequent winter wheat
and chickpea crops was calculated at
prevailing market rates.


RESULTS

Gravimetric soil water content
Seasonal precipitation varied
substantially over the experimental years.
Year 2007 received the highest (720 mm) and
2006 the lowest (558 mm) rains. Summer
rains were higher in 2005-06 and 2007-08.
Treatment ranking varied over the years for
their effect on gravimetric soil water content
Eliminating summer fallow affects soil moisture and yield

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(Table-1), except T7 (fallowdeep ploughed)
that remained consistently the most effective
of all the treatments, followed by mash bean
cultivation (T2) and fallowweed removed
(T5). Cultivation of sorghum (T4) and weedy
fallow (T6) during summer reduced maximum
soil moisture for the winter crops.


Table-1: Gravimetric soil water content (mm) in
the 60 cm layer at wheat and chickpea planting
following different summer treatments


Year
ST 04-05 05-06 06-07 07-08 08-09 Mean
T1 55.25 47.35 87.55 64.10 52.25 61.30
T2 69.30 48.70 84.55 65.00 53.55 64.25
T3 51.20 48.40 83.70 59.90 48.50 58.35
T4 53.75 39.95 79.60 61.90 45.00 56.05
T5 49.55 48.65 88.35 60.35 52.10 62.35
T6 -- 48.25 84.35 52.60 45.90 56.10
T7 -- 59.50 96.65 67.70 55.60 69.85
SE 7.86 5.71 5.34 4.84 4.01 4.93
SR 274 359 233 373 273 302
WR 257 104 393 158 255 233
SE = Standard error. SR and WR= summer and winter
rains (mm), respectively


Table-2: Yields (kg/ha) of summer crops.
Summer
Crop
Year
04 05 06 07 08 Mean
Mung 542 587 558 467 532 537
Mash 713 733 625 575 585 646
Millets 792 721 541 550 650 651
Sorghum 854 757 675 850 776 782
LSD 5% 71 35 127 96 74 76
SR (mm) 274 359 233 373 273 302
SR= Summer rain fall


Yields of summer crops
Sorghum was the most productive
summer crop in terms of grain yield followed
by millets (Table-2). Year 2006 received
relatively low effective summer rains. There
was no general relationship between the
effective rain and yield of summer crops. Grain
yield of mung and mash bean yields were
relatively low in 2007 as crops picked up
vegetative growth due to relatively high rains.


Table-3: Wheat grain yield (kg/ha) following
different summer treatments (ST)


ST
Year
04-05 05-06 06-07 07-08 08-09 Mean
T1 1960 670 2520 880 2365 1679
T2 2030 705 3030 896 1284 1589
T3 1876 590 1979 434 744 1125
T4 1840 540 1683 454 714 1046
T5 2250 831 3533 810 3587 2202
T6 - 795 2012 618 1194 1155
T7 - 1030 3583 1437 3762 2453
LSD5% 270 114 271 177 255
r
2

-0.05 0.88* 0.81* 0.66* 0.74* 0.89*
r
2
= Correlation coefficient between gravimetric soil
water content and wheat yield. *Significant (P<0.01)


Wheat yield vis--vis summer treatments
Wheat yield was generally low in 2004-
05 and high in 2006-07 and 2008-09 (Table-3).
Wheat yield was positively related to winter
rainfall as well as gravimetric soil water
content. Correlation analysis of gravimetric
soil moisture content after various summer
treatments measured before sowing winter
crop with wheat yield suggested that with the
exception of 2004-05, wheat yield was
significantly and positively related to
gravimetric soil water content at sowing in all
the years (Table-3). The data thus connote
that preceding summer treatment had
significant effect on wheat yield. Wheat crop
yielded better when preceding summer
treatment was fallow deep ploughed (T7) and
fallowweed removed (T5). During 2004-05,
however, wheat yield was high when
preceding summer treatment was T5 (fallow
weed removed) and T2 (mash bean) when
fallow deep ploughed treatment was not
included. Wheat yield following fallowdeep
ploughed treatment was not only high in
relative ranking but also in quantitative term
(Table-3). For example, on overall average,
wheat yield after fallowdeep ploughed
Subhani et al. Plants & Environment 1: 1 7, 2012
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summer treatment showed 11% increase over
that obtained after fallowweed removed
treatment (2
nd
best) and 54% increase over
yield after mash bean, the 3
rd
best treatment.
Wheat yield after fallowdeep ploughed
treatment marked 135% increase over that
obtained after sorghum.
Wheat yield pattern vis--vis summer
treatment was as follows: fallowdeep
ploughed > fallowweed removed > mung
bean > mash bean > fallowweed not
removed > millet > sorghum.


Table-4: Chickpea grain yield (kg/ha) following
different summer treatments (ST)

ST
Year
04-05 05-06 06-07 07-08 08-09 Mean
T1 1169 1040 510 110 305 627
T2 1206 1076 606 130 171 638
T3 1101 985 318 75 142 524
T4 1180 935 303 85 161 533
T5 1280 1220 647 122 411 736
T6 - 1110 421 96 151 445
T7 - 1440 775 230 492 734
LSD5% 202 164 87 37 17
r
2

0.05 0.90 0.87 0.64 0.73 0.86

r
2
= Correlation coefficient between gravimetric soil
water content and wheat yield.


Table-5: Wheat crop-water productivity (kg/m
3
)
following different summer treatments
Year
ST 04-05 05-06 06-07 07-08 08-09 Mean
T1 0.83 0.64 0.80 0.68 1.05 0.80
T2 0.82 0.67 0.98 0.70 0.56 0.75
T3 0.81 0.53 0.61 0.33 0.33 0.52
T4 0.79 0.51 0.53 0.33 0.32 0.49
T5 0.98 0.80 1.10 0.60 1.59 1.01
T6 - 0.75 0.64 0.48 0.54 0.60
T7 - 0.99 1.15 1.14 1.67 1.24
SE 0.07 0.15 0.23 0.26 0.53 0.25

SE = standard error
Chickpea yield vis--vis summer treatments
Chickpea yield varied significantly over
the years. In general, yield was high during
2004-05 and 2005-06, and low during 2007-08
and 2008-09 (Table-4). Chickpea yield was not
associated with winter rainfall but significantly
and positively associated with gravimetric soil
water content at sowing. Years 2004-05 and
2008-09 received almost same amount of
winter rains but chickpea yield (averaged over
treatments) in 2004-05 was 350% higher than
that harvested in 2008-09 and 130% higher
than that in 2006-07, years of the highest rain
(Table-4). For chickpea, preceding summer
treatment was comparatively less important.
During 2004-05, no significant difference
among treatment effects was observed on
chickpea yield in the absence of T7 and T6.
During later years, fallowdeep ploughed
summer treatment (T7) had consistent and
most favourable effect on chickpea yield. On
overall average basis, however, fallowdeep
ploughed (T7), fallowweed removed (T5) and
mung and mash crops in summer (T1 & T2) had
similar effects on chickpea yield (Table-4).


Table-6: Chickpea crop-water productivity
(kg/m
3
) following different summer treatments

Year
ST 04-05 05-06 06-07 07-08 08-09 Mean
T1 0.50 1.04 0.17 0.08 0.13 0.38
T2 0.48 1.10 0.19 0.10 0.08 0.39
T3 0.46 0.98 0.10 0.06 0.06 0.33
T4 0.50 0.97 0.10 0.06 0.07 0.34
T5 0.54 1.22 0.20 0.09 0.18 0.45
T6 - 1.13 0.13 0.07 0.07 0.35
T7 - 1.48 0.25 0.19 0.22 0.54
SE 0.03 0.16 0.05 0.04 0.06 0.07
SE = standard error


On an average, chickpea yield vis--vis
summer treatments ranked as follows: fallow
deep ploughed > fallowweeds removed >
mash bean > mung bean > sorghum > millet >
fallowweeds not removed.
Eliminating summer fallow affects soil moisture and yield

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Cropwater productivity
Differences among various summer
treatments for wheat crop-water productivity
were narrow in 2004-05, T5 being relatively
better. In the following years, fallowdeep
ploughed treatment (T7) provided the highest
wheat crop-water productivity followed by
fallowweeds removed (T5) treatment. Wheat
crop-water productivity was lowest with T4,
where wheat followed sorghum.
Similarly for the chickpea crop, fallow
deep ploughed summer treatment (T7)
provided the highest crop-water productivity
followed by fallowweeds removed (T5).
Chickpea crop-water productivity was lowest
when chickpea was sown after sorghum or
millet in summer (Table-6).

Economic Return
For wheat-based system, economic
return from various cropping patterns varied
substantially over the years, primarily due to
variation in yields of the major crops. During
2005-06, all patterns gave negative returns,
except mash bean wheat, because of the
low wheat yield. Economic return from wheat
mash bean combination, though positive,
merely amounted to Rupees 500 only. Apart
from that, five-year average annualized net
return from summer fallow-deep ploughed
wheat combination provided the highest
return, followed by summer fallow-weed
removed wheat combination (Table-7).
Summer fallow-deep ploughed wheat
pattern provided 50% more return as
compared to summer fallow-weed removed
wheat combination, the 2
nd
best, and 72%
more than mash wheat combination. Millet
wheat and sorghum wheat patterns
represented the lowest returns in all the
years.
For chickpea based system, years
2006-07 to 2008-09 were poor returning
because of poor yields in those three years.
Nevertheless, in combination with different
treatments, mash beanchickpea combination
provided higher annualized net return
followed by fallow-deep ploughed chickpea,
and summer fallow-weed removed chickpea.
Summer millet chickpea was the lowest
returning pattern (Table-8).


Table-7: Annualized net return (000Rupees/ha)
for summer and subsequent wheat crop

Year
ST 04-05 05-06 06-07 07-08 08-09 Mean
T1 3.11 -11.91 18.46 3.19 43.66 11.30
T2 15.37 0.50 31.00 9.05 33.72 17.93
T3 -0.95 -17.59 2.14 -11.40 4.01 -4.76
T4 3.53 -13.89 5.60 -4.54 6.71 -0.52
T5 7.53 -12.01 27.85 -3.77 83.27 20.57
T6 - -10.47 6.14 -5.96 13.73 0.86
T7 - -8.78 28.73 11.48 91.89 30.83
SE 5.52 5.21 11.48 7.78 33.19 12.05
SE = standard error


Table-8: Annualized net return (000Rupees/ha)
for summer and subsequent chickpea crop

Year
ST 04-05 05-06 06-07 07-08 08-09 Mean
T1 19.77 17.03 -0.11 -8.51 -4.84 4.67
T2 32.29 28.89 8.99 -2.23 0.17 13.62
T3 14.74 10.55 -13.61 -13.79 -11.80 -2.78
T4 23.08 13.19 -6.75 -7.39 -8.54 2.72
T5 23.98 19.93 -1.25 -13.77 -3.75 5.03
T6 - 18.88 -4.65 -12.16 -11.96 -2.47
T7 - 27.28 2.70 -8.30 0.18 5.46
SE 5.76 6.27 6.67 3.84 4.75 5.14
SE = standard error


DISCUSSION
Water is a vital and scarce commodity
in arid and semi-arid regions, thus the most
important factor affecting cropping pattern,
crop intensity, yield and the economic return.
The basic principle as well as objective of arid
and semi agriculture is the conservation and
efficient utilization of soil moisture, through
agronomic practices, for a profitable farming.
Our study conducted over five years
revealed a significant and positive relationship
between gravimetric water content over
Subhani et al. Plants & Environment 1: 1 7, 2012
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summer and the yields of wheat and chickpea
crops in winter. Gravimetric soil water content
at sowing appeared to be more important
than the amount of rain during crop season as
better moisture at sowing enhances seed
germination and vigorous early crop stand,
and ultimately yield. It was obvious that
eliminating summer fallow always significantly
reduced available soil moisture, yield and thus
economic return. Nielsen et al. (2002) and
Lyon et al. (2004) reported similar results and
recorded higher forage and corn yields
following summer fallow treatment than
those after oat and peas. Schiegel and Havlin
(1997), and Vigil and Nielsen (1998) also
reported reduced wheat yield when legume
crops were used to replace a portion of the
summer fallow period before winter wheat
planting. Moret et al. (2007) compared
continuous cropping and crop-fallow rotation
on growth and yield of barley in three
consecutive growing seasons and concluded
that crop-fallow rotation provided the highest
value of dry matter, and yielded 49% more
grain than continuous cropping.
We also studied and compared
different fallow practices and found fallow-
deep ploughed and fallow-weed removed
treatments being better in moisture
conservation and conducive for wheat yield.
Bonfil et al. (1999) concluded that conditions
where land was kept fallow in summer season,
clean fallow generally increased soil water
storage compared to fallow with weeds. Our
findings also suggested that fallow-weed
removed summer practice was better than
fallow-weed not removed, and leguminous
crops (mung and mash beans) better than
millet and sorghum in conserving soil
moisture. Legumes have additional beneficial
effect of nitrogen fixation that enhances soil
fertility. Khan et al. (1989) and Lal (1991) have
argued that introducing grain legumes in
cropping systems instead of leaving land
fallow during summer season or for a year
would reduce soil erosion and improve soil
fertility. However, our study could not confirm
their further conclusion that wheat grown in
rotation with legumes was economically a
better alternative than fallow wheat system.
Our findings concluded fallow-deep ploughed
wheat system a better economic option. The
discrepancy could be due to differences in
yield levels obtained and market prices of the
crops.
Summer fallow is a fixed cost within a
cropping system. Replacing summer-fallow
with a summer-planted transition crop
requires additional cost and reduces wheat
and chickpea revenue associated with the
transition crop. For the transition crop to be a
viable option, net return derived from it
should exceed the reduction in net return
from the reduced winter crop yield.
Irrespective of the impact of various
summer practices on soil moisture content
and yields of the major crops, principal driving
force behind successful cropping pattern and
the ensuing crop intensity lies in the economic
return to the farmers. Economic return
depends, in addition to agro-climatic factors,
on the cost of production and prevalent
market prices of the commodity. Our
economic analysis suggested that wheat
planting after deep ploughed summer fallow
in wheat based cropping system and chickpea
mash bean cropping pattern for chickpea
based cropping system were the most
economical for the Pottohar rainfed area.


CONCLUSIONS
Eliminating fallow-deep ploughed
summer practice before wheat planting
adversely affected wheat yield and economic
return. The cost of water used by legumes and
forage crops and subsequent decrease in
wheat yield was too high to justify the
planting of these crops as fallow cover crops
in wheat-fallow systems under semi-arid
environment. The most economical crop
rotation under rainfed conditions appeared to
be summer fallow-deep ploughed -- wheat
fallow-weeds removed -- wheat. Fallow-deep
ploughed summer treatment conserved
maximum moisture vital for winter crop.
Eliminating summer fallow affects soil moisture and yield

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