Randi Berland Frøseth

Research Scientist

(+47) 906 62 714
randi.froseth@nibio.no

Place
Tingvoll

Visiting address
Gunnars vei 6, NO-6630 Tingvoll

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Abstract

The emissions of nitrous oxide (N2O) and leaching of nitrate (NO3) from agricultural cropping systems have considerable negative impacts on climate and the environment. Although these environmental burdens are less per unit area in organic than in non-organic production on average, they are roughly similar per unit of product. If organic farming is to maintain its goal of being environmentally friendly, these loadings must be addressed. We discuss the impact of possible drivers of N2O emissions and NO3 leaching within organic arable farming practice under European climatic conditions, and potential strategies to reduce these. Organic arable crop rotations are generally diverse with the frequent use of legumes, intercropping and organic fertilisers. The soil organic matter content and the share of active organic matter, soil structure, microbial and faunal activity are higher in such diverse rotations, and the yields are lower, than in non-organic arable cropping systems based on less diverse systems and inorganic fertilisers. Soil mineral nitrogen (SMN), N2O emissions and NO3 leaching are low under growing crops, but there is the potential for SMN accumulation and losses after crop termination, harvest or senescence. The risk of high N2O fluxes increases when large amounts of herbage or organic fertilisers with readily available nitrogen (N) and degradable carbon are incorporated into the soil or left on the surface. Freezing/thawing, drying/rewetting, compacted and/or wet soil and mechanical mixing of crop residues into the soil further enhance the risk of high N2O fluxes. N derived from soil organic matter (background emissions) does, however, seem to be the most important driver for N2O emission from organic arable crop rotations, and the correlation between yearly total N-input and N2O emissions is weak. Incorporation of N-rich plant residues or mechanical weeding followed by bare fallow conditions increases the risk of NO3 leaching. In contrast, strategic use of deep-rooted crops with long growing seasons or effective cover crops in the rotation reduces NO3 leaching risk. Enhanced recycling of herbage from green manures, crop residues and cover crops through biogas or composting may increase N efficiency and reduce N2O emissions and NO3 leaching. Mixtures of legumes (e.g. clover or vetch) and non-legumes (e.g. grasses or Brassica species) are as efficient cover crops for reducing NO3 leaching as monocultures of non-legume species. Continued regular use of cover crops has the potential to reduce NO3 leaching and enhance soil organic matter but may enhance N2O emissions. There is a need to optimise the use of crops and cover crops to enhance the synchrony of mineralisation with crop N uptake to enhance crop productivity, and this will concurrently reduce the long-term risks of NO3 leaching and N2O emissions.

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Abstract

Soil fertility building measures should be explored at the short and long-term for an adequate evaluation of their impact on sustaining yields and of its environmental consequences in crop rotations under organic farming. For such a purpose, process-based crop models are potential useful tools to complement and upscale field observations under a range of soil and climatic conditions. Organic rotations differ in soil fertility dynamics in comparison to conventional farming but very few modelling studies have explicitly considered this specific situation. Here, we evaluate the FASSET model to predict the effects of different fertility management options in organic crop rotations on dry matter (DM) and nitrogen (N) yield, and soil N dynamics, including N2O emissions. For that, we used data from seven short and long-term field experiments in different agro-climatic environments in Europe (Norway, Denmark, Poland, Switzerland, Italy and Spain) including climate, soil and management data. Soil fertility building measures covered fertilization type, green manures, cover crops, tillage, crop rotation composition and management (organic or conventional). Model performance was evaluated by comparing observed and simulated values of crop DM and N yield, soil mineral N and nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions using five complementary statistical indices. The model closely reproduced most observed DM and N yield trends and effects of soil fertility building measures in arable crops, particularly in cereals. Contrary, yields of grass-clover, especially N, were generally reproduced with low degree of accuracy. Model performance for simulating soil mineral N depended on site and the availability of soil and management information. Although high uncertainty was associated to the simulation of soil N dynamics, differences of cumulative N2O emissions between fertility building measures were reflected in model outputs. Aspects for modelling improvement include cover crop growth and decomposition, biological N fixation (BNF) or weed and pest soil-crop interactions. It is concluded that FASSET can be successfully used to investigate the impact of fertilization type, green manures, tillage and management (organic or conventional) on crop productivity and to a certain extent on soil N dynamics including soil N2O emissions at different soils and climates in organic farming in Europe.

Abstract

A meta-analysis based on experiments in organically cultivated grasslands in Norway was conducted to quantify the effects of management factors on herbage yield and feed quality. A dataset was collected that included 496 treatment means from experiments in five studies carried out at eight locations with the latitude range of 58.8 to 69.6 N between 1993 and 2010. We tested the effect of harvesting system (two vs. Three cuts annually), plant developmental stage at the first cut, growth period (temperature sum) and the herbage clover proportion. Plant maturity at the first cut and herbage clover proportion explained to a large extent herbage yield and quality of the first cut and annual yield. The timing of the first cut influenced also the yield and herbage quality of the second cut. The analysis confirmed the importance of legumes performance for herbage yield and quality from grasslands in organic production. Estimated annual herbage DM yield harvested at standardized plant development stage and at average clover proportion was 9%higher in the two—compared to the three-cut system. The crude protein concentration and in vitro dry matter digestibility was 17 and 3 % higher and the NDF concentration 7 % lower in the annual herbage from the three-cut than from the twocut system, respectively. The empirical equations developed in this study may be applied to explore different options for grassland management as basis for ration and production planning and in scenario analysis of economic performance of individual and model farms. The equations do also reveal in numeric terms the tradeoffs in management practice between high yields, yield digestibility, NDF and crude protein content in organic forage production relying on red clover N2 fixation as the engine in the system.

Abstract

Implications Mulching of GM herbage can increase cereal yields compared to its removal. However, the same GM herbage removed for biogas production will provide biogas residue that can be used as spring fertilizer to cereals. This will improve N-recovery and reduce the risk for N pollution. Cooperation with existing biogas plants will be more efficient, as building small biogas plants are costly and challenging.