Sugarcane Root Development and Yield under Different Soil Tillage Practices
ABSTRACT New strategies for sugarcane production have been very important since the incorporation of ethanol in the Brazilian energy mix in the early 1970s. Prior to planting sugarcane, the soil is prepared, and this process can affect root development and, consequently, sugarcane production. This study was conducted in an area of sugarcane crop renewal in the Cerrado biome (Brazilian tropical savanna), with the objective of identifying which tillage system generates the better root development and improved yield in sugarcane. The treatments were: 1) weed desiccation + moldboard plowing (0.4 m) + mild spike tooth harrowing (0.15 m); 2) subsoiler (0.3 m) + mild spike tooth harrowing (0.15 m); 3) weed desiccation + no-tillage (furrow opening and fertilizer); 4) weed desiccation + subsoiler (0.4 m); 5) ratoon destruction + subsoiler (0.4 m); 6) ratoon destruction + spike tooth harrowing (0.2 m) + moldboard plowing (0.4 m) + mild spike tooth harrowing (0.15 m). Characteristics of the sugarcane root system, such as the root length density, average distance between roots, and root soil exploration, after the first harvest (1.5 years) were studied. Root length density was greater for the treatments that included plowing (0.4 m) and harrowing (0.15 m) operations. The average distance between roots was low in the no-tillage system. The highest sugarcane yield in the plant crop was achieved by management practices with more extensive soil profile disturbances, like plowing followed by harrowing.