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Abstract

Europe accounts for around 20% of the global cereal production and is a net exporter of ca. 15% of that production. Increasing global demand for cereals justifies questions as to where and by how much Europe’s production can be increased to meet future global market demands, and how much additional nitrogen (N) crops would require. The latter is important as environmental concern and legislation are equally important as production aims in Europe. Here, we used a country-by-country, bottom-up approach to establish statistical estimates of actual grain yield, and compare these to modelled estimates of potential yields for either irrigated or rainfed conditions. In this way, we identified the yield gaps and the opportunities for increased cereal production for wheat, barley and maize, which represent 90% of the cereals grown in Europe. The combined mean annual yield gap of wheat, barley, maize was 239 Mt, or 42% of the yield potential. The national yield gaps ranged between 10 and 70%, with small gaps in many north-western European countries, and large gaps in eastern and south-western Europe. Yield gaps for rainfed and irrigated maize were consistently lower than those of wheat and barley. If the yield gaps of maize, wheat and barley would be reduced from 42% to 20% of potential yields, this would increase annual cereal production by 128 Mt (39%). Potential for higher cereal production exists predominantly in Eastern Europe, and half of Europe’s potential increase is located in Ukraine, Romania and Poland. Unlocking the identified potential for production growth requires a substantial increase of the crop N uptake of 4.8 Mt. Across Europe, the average N uptake gaps, to achieve 80% of the yield potential, were 87, 77 and 43 kg N ha−1 for wheat, barley and maize, respectively. Emphasis on increasing the N use efficiency is necessary to minimize the need for additional N inputs. Whether yield gap reduction is desirable and feasible is a matter of balancing Europe’s role in global food security, farm economic objectives and environmental targets.

Abstract

Four field trials (spring wheat and oats) were conducted (one on clay soil, one on loam soil and two on silt soil) for three years in important cereal growing districts, to investigate the influence of tillage regimes (ploughing versus reduced tillage in either autumn or spring) and straw management (removed and retained) on plant residue amounts, weed populations, soil structural parameters and cereal yields. The effect of tillage on soil structure varied, mainly due to the short trial period. In general, the amount of small soil aggregates increased with tillage intensity. Reduced soil tillage, and in some cases spring ploughing, gave significantly higher aggregate stability than autumn ploughing, thus providing protection against erosion. However, decreasing tillage intensity increased the amounts of weeds, particularly of Poa annua on silt soil. Straw treatment only slightly affected yields, while effects of tillage varied between both year and location. Reduced tillage, compared to ploughing, gave only small yield differences on loam soil, while it was superior on clay soil and inferior on silt soil. Our results suggest that shallow spring ploughing is a good alternative to autumn ploughing, since it gave comparable yields, better protection against erosion and was nearly as effective against weeds.

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Abstract

Verification of traffic-induced soil compaction after long-term ploughing and ten years minimum tillage on clay loam soil in South-East Norway T. Seehusen, T. Børresen, B.I. Rostad, H. Fleige, A. Zink and H. Riley Abstract Grain yields are presented from a 10-year field trial with four tillage regimes (annual ploughing, harrowing only, ploughing/harrowing alternate years, minimum tillage) on clay loam. We also present soil physical analyses and use the compaction verification tool (CVT) to assess compaction on plots with annual ploughing and minimum tillage, after using slurry tankers with contrasting wheel loads (4.1 Mg, 6.6 Mg) and wheeling intensities (1x/10x) in the 11th trial year, and yields monitored two years after compaction. Winter wheat yields in the period before compaction were strongly affected by tillage, with annual ploughing giving on average 24% higher yield than direct drilling. Both wheat and oats were far less affected in treatments with harrowing only or ploughing/harrowing alternate years, on average within 6% of annual ploughing. Yields after compaction were affected by both previous tillage and compaction intensity. In the first year, single wheeling after annual ploughing gave 23% yield reduction with 4.1 Mg wheel load and 28% reduction with 6.6 Mg wheel load, whilst multiple wheeling gave 14 % reduction at 6.6 Mg wheel load. Yield reductions after minimum tillage ranged from 63% (single wheeling with 4.1 Mg) to 100% (multiple wheeling with 6.6 Mg). Similar trends were found in the second year. The soil physical data indicated that all wheeling led to changes in bulk density, pore sizes and permeability in both topsoil and subsoil on both sampled tillage plots. However, effects in the subsoil were partly masked by the soil’s high initial bulk density, partly due to its high clay content. The CVT, which plots air capacity against hydraulic conductivity, suggested some harmful compaction on both plots, with the minimum tillage plot being less affected than the ploughed plot. However, yield results did not support this conclusion, indicating that other factors limited yields on the minimum tilled plot. Keywords: long term contrasting soil tillage, yield results, slurry tanker, wheel load, wheeling intensity, compaction verification tool.