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Conservation tillage and organic farming reduce soil erosion


Seitz, Steffen; Goebes, Philipp; Puerta, Viviana Loaiza; Pereira, Engil Isadora Pujol; Wittwer, Raphaël; Six, Johan; van der Heijden, Marcel G A; Scholten, Thomas (2019). Conservation tillage and organic farming reduce soil erosion. Agronomy for Sustainable Development, 39(1):4.

Abstract

The impact of different arable farming practices on soil erosion is only partly resolved, and the effect of conservation tillage practices in organic agriculture on sediment loss has rarely been tested in the field. This study investigated rainfall-induced interrill sediment loss in a long-term replicated arable farming system and tillage experiment (the FAST trial) with four different cropping systems: (1) organic farming with intensive tillage, (2) organic farming with reduced tillage, (3) conventional farming with intensive tillage, and (4) conventional farming with no tillage. Measurements were carried out under simulated heavy rainfall events with runoff plots in 2014 (fallow land after winter wheat) and 2017 (during maize growth). Organic farming decreased mean sediment delivery compared to conventional farming by 30% (0.54 t ha−1 h−1). This study demonstrated that reduced tillage in organic farming decreased sediment delivery (0.73 t ha−1 h−1) compared to intensively tilled organic plots (1.87 t ha−1 h−1) by 61%. Nevertheless, the combination of conventional farming and no tillage showed the lowest sediment delivery (0.24 t ha−1 h−1), whereas intensively tilled conventional plots revealed the highest delivery (3.46 t ha−1 h−1). Erosion rates were much higher in June during maize growth (2.92 t ha−1 h−1) compared to those of fallow land after winter wheat (0.23 t ha−1 h−1). Soil surface cover and soil organic matter were the best predictors for reduced sediment delivery, and living plant cover from weeds in reduced organic treatments appeared to protect soil surfaces better than plant residues in conventional, no-tillage plots. Soil erosion rates were significantly lower when soil cover was above 30%. In conclusion, this study demonstrates that both organic farming and conservation agriculture reduce soil losses and showed for the first time that reduced tillage practices are a major improvement in organic farming when it comes to soil erosion control.

Abstract

The impact of different arable farming practices on soil erosion is only partly resolved, and the effect of conservation tillage practices in organic agriculture on sediment loss has rarely been tested in the field. This study investigated rainfall-induced interrill sediment loss in a long-term replicated arable farming system and tillage experiment (the FAST trial) with four different cropping systems: (1) organic farming with intensive tillage, (2) organic farming with reduced tillage, (3) conventional farming with intensive tillage, and (4) conventional farming with no tillage. Measurements were carried out under simulated heavy rainfall events with runoff plots in 2014 (fallow land after winter wheat) and 2017 (during maize growth). Organic farming decreased mean sediment delivery compared to conventional farming by 30% (0.54 t ha−1 h−1). This study demonstrated that reduced tillage in organic farming decreased sediment delivery (0.73 t ha−1 h−1) compared to intensively tilled organic plots (1.87 t ha−1 h−1) by 61%. Nevertheless, the combination of conventional farming and no tillage showed the lowest sediment delivery (0.24 t ha−1 h−1), whereas intensively tilled conventional plots revealed the highest delivery (3.46 t ha−1 h−1). Erosion rates were much higher in June during maize growth (2.92 t ha−1 h−1) compared to those of fallow land after winter wheat (0.23 t ha−1 h−1). Soil surface cover and soil organic matter were the best predictors for reduced sediment delivery, and living plant cover from weeds in reduced organic treatments appeared to protect soil surfaces better than plant residues in conventional, no-tillage plots. Soil erosion rates were significantly lower when soil cover was above 30%. In conclusion, this study demonstrates that both organic farming and conservation agriculture reduce soil losses and showed for the first time that reduced tillage practices are a major improvement in organic farming when it comes to soil erosion control.

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Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Department of Plant and Microbial Biology
07 Faculty of Science > Zurich-Basel Plant Science Center
Dewey Decimal Classification:580 Plants (Botany)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Agronomy and Crop Science, Environmental Engineering
Language:English
Date:1 February 2019
Deposited On:07 Feb 2020 11:42
Last Modified:08 Feb 2020 08:37
Publisher:Springer
ISSN:1773-0155
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1007/s13593-018-0545-z

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