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Development of reduced tillage systems in organic farming in Europe

Mäder, Paul and Berner, Alfred (2011) Development of reduced tillage systems in organic farming in Europe. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, 27 (1), pp. 7-11.

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Online at: doi:10.1017/S1742170511000470

Summary

No-tillage and reduced tillage are considered sustainable options of conservation tillage. While US organic farming researchers have focused on no-tillage, European organic farming researchers have concentrated on reduced tillage through the reduction of tillage depth or the application of noninversion tillage practices. Combinations of these two approaches have been implemented by the use of the two-layer plow or the layer cultivator. These innovations often came from farmers, aiming at reducing off-farm inputs such as fuel, and saving costs and labor, while at the same time building up soil fertility. Systematic, documented research on reduced tillage systems in Europe started only 1–2 decades ago, with experiments in Germany, Switzerland and France. While most experiments mimic stockless farms, other experiments include fodder crops such as grass–clover ley and applications of manure and slurry as is typical for mixed farms with animals and crops. Soil organic carbon, microbial activity and soil structure are often improved in the upper soil layer under reduced tillage compared with plowed soils. However, these positive findings were confounded by lower yields in some cases and enhanced weed pressure, except for the two-layer plow. Often it was not possible to determine whether and to what extent yield reduction was due to weed competition or to nitrogen shortage, because of retarded nitrogen mineralization in spring in reduced tillage systems. In systems with manure use, also higher soil fertility measures concomitant with increased yields were reported under reduced tillage. Indeed, it is difficult to gain an overview on research activities dealing with reduced tillage in organic farming in Europe due to dispersed experimental infrastructures and the scarcity of peer-reviewed published literature. To close this knowledge gap a European Network is being established aiming at further developing reduced tillage systems in organic farming, addressing the issue of carbon sequestration and N2O emissions, as well as weed and nutrient management.


EPrint Type:Journal paper
Keywords:reduced tillage, no-tillage, conservation tillage, organic farming, Europe, Bodenwissenschaften, Effizienz von Anbausystemen, Bodenfruchtbarkeit, Kline, reduzierte Bodenbearbeitung
Subjects: Crop husbandry > Soil tillage
Soil
Research affiliation: Switzerland > FiBL - Research Institute of Organic Agriculture Switzerland > Soil Sciences
ISSN:1742-1705
Related Links:http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=8484916&fulltextType=AC&fileId=S1742170511000470, http://www.fibl.org/en/switzerland/research/soil-sciences.html
Deposited By: Mäder, Paul
ID Code:20503
Deposited On:13 Feb 2012 10:43
Last Modified:22 Feb 2012 13:50
Document Language:English
Status:Published
Refereed:Peer-reviewed and accepted

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