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Traffic effects on soil compaction and sugarbeet (Beta vulgaris L.) taproot quality parameters

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Traffic effects on soil compaction and sugarbeet (Beta vulgaris L.) taproot quality parameters.
F. Marinello, A. Pezzuolo, D. Cillis, L. Sartori
Department of Land, Environment, Agriculture, and Forestry, University of Padova, Viale dell’Università 16, 35020 Legnaro (PD), Italy.

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Soil compaction is a critical issue in agriculture, having a significant influence on crop growth. Indeed, the reduction of soil porosity leads to a decrease of aeration and to a reduced saturated hydraulic conductivity, besides an increase in soil resistance can reduce root growth.

Sugar beet (Beta vulgaris L.) is accounted as a crop susceptible to compaction. Reduction of emergence, leaf area, initial growth, final yield, dry matter accumulation, plant population and root quality parameters are reported in compacted soils.

The most obvious visual indicator of topsoil compaction is root depth affected by agricultural tractor and machinery’s traffic on the soil. Such indicator is mainly correlated to initial soil condition, tyre features and number of passages.

For this reason controlled traffic farming can be a successful approach. Monitoring and controlling frequency and position of machines traffic across the field, in such a way that passages are completed on specific well defined tracks, can help minimization of compaction effects on soil.

The objective of the present work was to analyze the subsoil compaction during the growing period of sugar beet, with different farming approaches: controlled traffic passages and random traffic. To this end, tests were carried out, following each agrotechnic operation using penetrometer readings in order to monitor the state of cone-index (CI) after each step. Besides, at the harvesting time, root quality parameters were analyzed, with particular attention to: length and regularity of the taproot, total length, circumference, weight, aboveground biomass.

Such parameters were usefully implemented in order to evaluate the effects of controlled traffic passages compared to the random traffic in a cultivation of sugar beet.

Results highlight how an increase higher than 10% can be expected implementing a careful traffic management.

Keywords: soil compaction, sugar beet, traffic management, soil penetration resistance, taproot parameters

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