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No Till and Organic Farming Improve Soil Properties but Reduce Crop Yield Compared to Conventional Farming in a Swiss Farm Network

Büchi, Lucie; Walder, Florian; Banerjee, Samiran; Colombi, Tino; Hirte, Juliane; Mayer, Jochen; Keller, Thomas; Six, Johan; van der Heijden, Marcel and Charles, Raphael (2018) No Till and Organic Farming Improve Soil Properties but Reduce Crop Yield Compared to Conventional Farming in a Swiss Farm Network. In: Abstract Book - ESA2018. XVe European Society for Agronomy Congress (ESA), 27.-31.8.2019, Geneva, Switzerland, p. 36.

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Online at: http://www.esa-congress-2018.ch/programme/programme-and-abstract-book/

Summary

Soils are of vital importance for sustainable food production. In order to maintain or improve soil quality, it is necessary to develop strategies for a sustainable use of soil. Alternative cropping practices such as reduced tillage and improved crop rotation are more and more adopted with the aim of decreasing the impact of agriculture on the environment. However, their on-the-ground impact in Swiss farming systems still has to be assessed. In this study, we quantified the impact of three farming systems (conventional farming, no-till, and organic farming) on plant and soil chemical, biological and physical properties. Our study included 20 fields for each farming system. All selected fields were cultivated with winter wheat the year of sampling. Soil was sampled at four layers, 0-5 cm, 5-20 cm, 20-25 cm, 25-50 cm. The main variables analysed were grain yield, soil nutrient availability, organic carbon stocks, bulk density, aggregation, porosity and soil biology. This was complemented with a comprehensive survey to collect information about cropping practices at field and farm scale, including organic matter inputs, fertilisation, tillage, phytosanitary treatments, and crop rotation.Our results show a significant influence of cropping practices on plant and soil properties. Wheat yield in no till and organic systems was reduced by 10% and 30% compared to conventional systems. Bulk density was higher in no-till than in ploughed fields in the 5-20 cm layer but similar in the subsoil. A strong stratification with depth of nutrients and soil organic carbon was observed in no-till fields. No-till and organic fields showed larger soil aggregates and higher microbial biomass in the surface layer (0-5 cm). Mycorrhizal colonisation of wheat roots was on average 50% higher in organic fields. However, no differences in carbon stock in the 0-20 cm layer was observed and the ratio organic matter / clay shows a high variability (from poor to good) and was not dependent on the farming system.Our results show that an improvement of soil properties can be achieved with alternative cropping practices such as no-till and organic farming, but also depends on the other practices adopted by the farmers, such as input of organic amendments, crop rotation diversification, residue management.


EPrint Type:Conference paper, poster, etc.
Type of presentation:Paper
Keywords:On farm study, soil quality, cropping practices, reduced tillage
Subjects:"Organics" in general
Crop husbandry > Soil tillage
Research affiliation: Switzerland > FiBL - Research Institute of Organic Agriculture Switzerland > Soil Sciences
Switzerland > Agroscope
Switzerland > FiBL - Research Institute of Organic Agriculture Switzerland > Advisory Service
Sweden > Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU)
UK > Natural Resources Institute (NRI Uni Greenwich)
Switzerland > Other organizations
Deposited By: Charles, Dr Raphaël
ID Code:34558
Deposited On:18 Feb 2019 14:44
Last Modified:18 Feb 2019 19:54
Document Language:English
Status:Published
Refereed:Not peer-reviewed

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