In September 2011, the Organic Research Centre began work on a new project – “Reduced tillage and green manures for sustainable organic cropping systems” (acronym TILMAN-ORG). Over the three year project the ORC will collaborate with 10 European countries. The research is being led by the Swiss Research Institute for Biological Agriculture (FIBL).
The project’s overall aim is to make use of the benefits of reduced tillage and green manures under organic farming conditions. Reduced tillage and green manures have the potential to improve soil structure and biology that can be damaged after the use of traditional mouldboard ploughing. Trials have shown that reduced tillage can increase levels of soil organic matter, improve soil stability, increase soil biological activity and reduce fuel consumption.
But technical difficulties, most notably in weed control, mean that abandoning the plough can be challenging for organic farmers. To make use of the fuel savings and soil conservation associated with reduced tillage, it therefore needs to be adapted to the special conditions in organic agriculture.
The TILMAN-ORG project will develop optimum techniques of reduced tillage and green manures for organic systems. 24 scientific trials across 15 research partners in 10 European countries will be conducted together with case studies and farmer interviews. New and existing data will be collected and collated to facilitate the design of optimised arable rotations with improved soil quality and greenhouse gas emissions, optimised weed control, enhanced nutrient use efficiency and improved crop performance.
ORC’s role is to monitor an on-farm trial at Duchy Home Farm, where conventional ploughing is compared with the use of a reduced tillage machine (the Ecodyn cultivator). The trial (PDF 618KB) that was started by Duchy Home Farm in 2010 in collaboration with the Institute of Organic Training and Advice (IOTA) will run until 2014 under TILMAN-ORG.
For further details, see our crop production page.
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