Straw Removal Effects on Soil Water Dynamics, Soil Temperature, and Sugarcane Yield in South-Central Brazil
The use of sugarcane straw as bioenergy feedstock has been encouraged in recent years due to its potential to mitigate greenhouse gases emissions. Nevertheless, the indiscriminate straw removal causes soil damages, impairing crop development and produc- tivity. Experiments in three sugarcane growing locations (Quatá-SP, Chapadão do Céu-GO, and Quirinópolis-GO) were con- ducted over 2 years to evaluate soil water dynamics, soil temperature, and sugarcane yield under diverse edaphoclimatic conditions. Straw removal of 0%, 50%, and 100% was arranged in a randomized block design with four replications. Dielectric water potential sensors were used to record soil water potential (ψ, kPa) and soil temperature (°C) every 6 h at a 0.15-m depth. Sugarcane yields were measured annually using an instrumented truck equipped with load cells. In general, the complete and partial straw removals were detrimental to water storage and therefore to plant available water causing an increase in soil temperature during sprouting and tillering phases, which are extremely important periods for a good crop establishment and, consequently, for yield increase. For the experimental sites presenting high fertility, greater water holding capacity, high sugarcane yield potential, and considering an extended water deficit in early stages of crop development, the complete straw removal resulted in yield losses of up to 16 and 40 Mg ha−1, respectively. For the experimental site presenting low sugarcane yield potential, even with low water deficit at the beginning of crop seasons, straw removal had no significant influence on sugarcane yield in the short term, since straw did not produce enough improvements to soil in order to enable benefits for water retention.