Productivity, quality and sustainability of winter wheat under long-term conventional and organic management in Switzerland

Jochen Mayer a,∗, Lucie Gunst a, Paul Mäder b, Marie-Franc¸ oise Samsonc, Marina Carcea d, Valentina Narducci d, Ingrid K. Thomsene, David Dubois - European Journal of Agronomy 65 (2015) 27–39

Farm Table says:

This paper is a long-term study that has been ongoing for quite some time. The data presented here are first hand with the aim of establishing a concrete conclusion to increase production and sustain the growing population. There are several factors in the experiment that is pertinent to succeeding studies in the future.

Feeding a growing human world population is one of the main challenges in the 21st century. Restricted land for agricultural cultivation and restricted natural resources force us to increase the productivity per area with lower external inputs. Enhancing resource use efficiency without negative effects on crop quality and system sustainability is, therefore, the main aim for agricultural development.

Long-term sustainability and high resource use efficiency are major goals for high-quality baking wheat production throughout the world. Present strategies are low input systems such as organic agriculture or improved conventional systems (integrated). The fertilisation level and strategy, crop protection as well as preceding crop effects may modulate system performance with respect to wheat grain yield, quality and environmental performance of the systems.

In this study, we aimed to evaluate data on winter wheat performance from 2003 to 2010 from the DOK long-term systems experiment in Switzerland comparing organic and conventional cropping systems since 1978 at two fertilisation intensities on a loess soil. We examined:

  • the effects on winter wheat grain yields, crude protein contents and nitrogen fertiliser use efficiency
  • the related interactions on yield components and
  • the effects on wheat baking quality parameters in bio-organic and bio-dynamic cropping systems. In addition, we compare the results with long-term soil sustainability parameters from the DOK experiment and discuss them with respect to the aim of long-term sustainable land us

Doubling the organic fertilisation level only slightly improved wheat grain yields and was not able to improve grain baking quality. In the organic agriculture systems, the effects of the preceding potato crop in comparison to silage maize outperformed the organic fertilisation effects, resulting in higher yields and higher CP contents. The yield components recorded in the case of preceding potatoes demonstrated a more synchronised nutrient supply throughout wheat development than after maize.

Overall low input systems and fertilisation levels the conventional mixed farming system at half standard fertilisation (CONFYM1) performed best with distinctly higher grain yields and CP than in the organic systems with standard fertilisation (BIOORG 2, BODYN2) and a better NUE as well as NUpE. However, all systems, organic as well as conventional, with low organic fertiliser inputs (0.7 LU on fertilisation level 1; CONMIN2, NOFERT) performed poorly considering long-term soil quality parameters, indicating a degradation of soil quality.

The DOK long-term experiment allows an integrated view on the performance of baking wheat production and long-term sustainability. The results emphasise the importance of a sufficient supply of soils with organic fertilisers as well as the need to improve the availability of organic nitrogen and synchrony between nutrient supply and demand in organic baking wheat production, besides the selection of a suitable preceding crop.

2015 - Switzerland - Jochen Mayer a,∗, Lucie Gunst a, Paul Mäder b, Marie-Franc¸ oise Samsonc, Marina Carcea d, Valentina Narducci d, Ingrid K. Thomsene, David Dubois - European Journal of Agronomy 65 (2015) 27–39
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