Soil compaction has increased during recent years due to the traffic with increasingly heavier machinery. We evaluated the effect of soil compaction on soil penetration resistance, rooting depth, light interception, radiation-use efficiency (RUE) and yield of three different cultivars of winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.). On loamy sand two compaction treatments (PAC-1 and PAC-2) and a no compaction reference treatment (REF) were applied. PAC-1 was intended to affect primarily the subsoil whereas PAC-2 was intended to affect primarily the topsoil. PAC-2 showed the highest and REF the lowest penetration resistance in the topsoil, respectively. In the subsoil both compaction treatments showed higher penetration resistances than REF. In comparison with REF, the compaction treatments decreased the estimated effective rooting depth by ca. 10, 20 and 50 cm in the three winter wheat cultivars tested, equivalent to decreases in the available soil water in the root zone of up to ca. 90 mm. These differences indicate some genetic variation in the ability of cultivars to penetrate compacted soil, although the interaction between compaction treatment and cultivar was not significant. Due to almost sufficient precipitation, the impairment of root penetration resulted in a minor yield decrease of ca. 9% of grain yield in PAC-2 and ca. 8% of total dry matter (DM) in both compaction treatments. The latter was attributed to decreases in interception of light and to efficiency of light energy conversion into biomass. The RUE was positively correlated with an estimated effective rooting depth across cultivars, while DM yield was not. This correlation probably was a result of restrictions on stomatal opening mediated by drought stress and abscisic acid produced in the root system in response to occasional soil drying. Root-sourced signals, triggered in a direct response to soil compaction, may have contributed.
Acta Agriculturae Scandinavica, Section B - Soil and Plant Science, 2013, Vol 63, Issue 5, p. 409-419