Assessment of Effects of Zero and Conventional Tillage Practices on Soil Moisture and Wheat Grain Yield in Arid and Semi-Arid Land of Laikipia, Kenya

  • Mary W. MutongaEmail author
  • Emmanuel C. Kipkorir
  • Wilson K. Ng’etich
Original Paper


Soil water conservation through tillage is one appropriate way of addressing soil moisture deficit in rain-fed agriculture. The influence of zero and conventional tillage on soil moisture and yield of wheat was investigated in arid and semi-arid lands (ASAL) of Laikipia County, during short rain season of 2015/2016 (September to February). Field trials were carried out with two tillage treatments, zero tillage (ZT) and conventional tillage (CT), with four varying sowing onset dates namely early (SD1), normal (SD2), late (SD3), and a control treatment with supplemental irrigation under normal sowing dates (WTSD2). The zero tillage fields used had been under the tillage practice for over 10 years while adjacent conventional tillage field was disturbed by plowing and harrowing. This was laid out in a randomized complete block design in split plot arrangement with three replicates. Undisturbed soil samples for gravimetric soil moisture determination were taken every 10 days from four depths (10 cm, 25 cm, 45 cm, and 60 cm) in the root zone during the entire growing season from each sub-plot. Irrespective of the sowing date, soil water content at the root zone between the two tillage practices and crop yields was significantly different at p < 0.05. The mean yield was 5.70 ± 1.08 ton/ha (CT) and 8.69 ± 0.54 ton/ha (ZT) in rain-fed trials. Supplemental irrigation trials for the two tillage practices had comparatively equal mean grain yield (12.91 ± 1.37 ton/ha (ZT) and 13.61 ± 0.46 ton/ha (CT)). It was concluded that zero tillage conserved moisture better leading to higher grain yield gap of up to 3 ton/ha.


Climate change Infiltration Moisture retention Onset of rainfall Root zone Runoff 



Mr. L. Sessions (Proprietor, Lengetia Farm Ltd) and the entire management and staff of Lengetia farm Ltd. are acknowledged for giving access to set up the field trials in their farm and continued support during the entire period of the study.


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Agricultural and Biosystems EngineeringUniversity of EldoretEldoretKenya
  2. 2.Department of Civil and Structural EngineeringMoi UniversityEldoretKenya
  3. 3.Department of Soil ScienceUniversity of EldoretEldoretKenya

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