Ragnar Eltun

Head of Department/Head of Research

(+47) 975 83 073


Visiting address
Nylinna 226, 2849 Kapp

To document


The relative effects of using light (2-3 Mg) versus heavier (5-7 Mg) tractors, shallow (15 cm) versus deeper (25 cm) ploughing and on-land versus in-furrow wheel placement during ploughing were investigated from 2003 to 2006 in organic rotations (wheat or barley, green manure, oats with peas) and conventionally fertilized barley. Trials were located on loam soil in south-eastern Norway and silty clay loam in central Norway. Ploughing was performed in spring, when the topsoil moisture content was at or below field capacity, using single furrow ploughs that allowed alternative wheel placement and resulted in complete coverage of the surface by wheels each year (ca. 3 times the normal coverage during ploughing). Low tyre inflation pressures (:<= 80 kPa) were used throughout. The use of a heavy tractor increased topsoil bulk density slightly in the loam soil, and, in combination with in-furrow wheeling, it reduced air-filled pore space and air permeability at 18-22 cm. On the silty clay loam, the use of a heavy tractor did not increase bulk density, but it reduced air-filled pore space throughout the topsoil. In-furrow wheeling reduced air-filled pore space in this soil also, compared to on-land wheeling. Penetration resistance was in this soil always greater at 15-25 cm depth after shallow than after deep ploughing, especially with in-furrow rather than on-land wheeling. Shallow ploughing led on both soils to marked increases in perennial weed biomass compared to deep ploughing. Earthworms were hardly affected by the treatments, but in the loam in 2006 a higher number of individuals were found where the light rather than the heavy tractor had been used. Few significant treatment effects were found on grain yield and quality. Deep ploughing with a light tractor gave the highest wheat yield and protein content in 2 years on the loam soil, and on the silty clay loam the yield of conventionally fertilized barley was higher after deep than after shallow ploughing. In summary, limited evidence was found to support the use of on-land rather than in-furrow wheeling when ploughing is performed at favourable soil moisture and with tractor weights < 5 Mg. There is, however, reason to be wary of using heavy tractors (> 5 Mg), even under such conditions. With regard to ploughing depth in organic rotations dominated by cereals, the need to combat perennial weeds by deep ploughing weighs probably more heavily than any possible beneficial effect of shallow ploughing on stimulating nutrient turnover. (C) 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


The three organic cropping systems Landvik (in Grimstad), Voll (at Ås) and Kvithamar (in Stjørdal) were established in 1993 on previously conventionally farmed soils of marine origin. The six-year crop rotation at Landvik was designed for an organic stockless farm producing cash crops. These crops were fertilized with composted organic household waste from the nearby community (maximum 100 kg N ha-1) and composted waste from the system itself. The rotation at Voll was designed for an arable farm withbeef production from suckling cows (0.9 animal units ha-1), and the rotation at Kvithamar was designed for a dairy cattle farm (1.0 animal unit ha-1). During the first six years of organic farming, the soil reserves of K were slightly depleted. The nutrient balance was –250 kg K ha-1 at Voll and –420 kg K ha-1 at Landvik, and the content of easily soluble K in the plough layer decreased at these sites. At Kvithamar, however, where the K balance for six years was –380 kg ha-1, no changes in soil content of K were recorded. For P, the six-year balance was positive at Landvik, where altogether 120 kg P ha-1 was supplied from composted household waste. The P balance was negative (-40 kg ha-1) at Voll and Kvithamar, and at Voll the content of easily soluble P in the plough layer was lower in 1999 than in 1993. In the study period, the yields were variable both within and between the systems. We have not identified any trends or variations in yields that might have been directly caused by changesin soil nutrient status or other soil quality components. At Voll and Kvithamar, however, the number of earthworm and the soil macroporosity increased from 1993 to 1999, with a concurrent slight increase in the yields of leys (Voll) and grain crops and swedes (Kvithamar). In the system at Landvik the yields of potatos and carrots were higher the first two than the last four years. At this site the soil structure was good, and the porosity and earthworm activity high, during the whole study period.