Journal article
Shallow non-inversion tillage in organic farming maintains crop yields and increases soil C stocks: A meta-analysis

Publication Details
Cooper, J.; Baranski, M.; Stewart, G.; Lange, M.; Barberi, P.; Fliessbach, A.; Peigne, J.; Berner, A.; Brock, C.; Casagrande, M.; Crowley, O.; David, C.; Vliegher, A.; Döring, T.; Dupont, A.; Entz, M.; Grosse, M.; Haase, T.; Halde, C.; Hammerl, V.; Huiting, H.; Leithold, G.; Messmer, M.; Schloter, M.; Sukkel, W.; van der Heijden, M.; Willekens, K.; Wittwer, R.; Mäder, P.
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Agronomy for Sustainable Development
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Reduced tillage is increasingly promoted to improve sustainability and productivity of agricultural systems. Nonetheless, adoption of reduced tillage by organic farmers has been slow due to concerns about nutrient supply, soil structure, and weeds that may limit yields. Here, we compiled the results from both published and unpublished research comparing deep or shallow inversion tillage, with various categories of reduced tillage under organic management. Shallow refers to less than 25 cm. We found that (1) division of reduced tillage practices into different classes with varying degrees of intensity allowed us to assess the trade-offs between reductions in tillage intensity, crop yields, weed incidence, and soil C stocks. (2) Reducing tillage intensity in organic systems reduced crop yields by an average of 7.6 {\%} relative to deep inversion tillage with no significant reduction in yield relative to shallow inversion tillage. (3) Among the different classes of reduced tillage practice, shallow non-inversion tillage resulted in non-significant reductions in yield relative to deep inversion; whereas deep non-inversion tillage resulted in the largest yield reduction, of 11.6 {\%}. (4) Using inversion tillage to only a shallow depth resulted in minimal reductions in yield, of 5.5 {\%}, but significantly higher soil C stocks and better weed control. This finding suggests that this is a good option for organic farmers wanting to improve soil quality while minimizing impacts on yields. (5) Weeds were consistently higher, by about 50 {\%}, when tillage intensity was reduced, although this did not always result in reduced yields.


Last updated on 2019-01-11 at 16:03

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