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Monday, 04 November 2019 09:34

Developments in the German Study Site and creation of Applicability Maps

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The German Study Site at the Tachenhausen research farm is investigating the effects of glyphosate in a cropping system with cover crops and reduced tillage without ploughing. The use of glyphosate is currently highly debated, with public opinion pushing towards prohibition of this herbicide. Currently, as conventional conservation agriculture systems depend on herbicide use for weed control, it is important to understand the effects of glyphosate on soil biology. It is also important to develop alternative management practices to eliminate its use in the event that it is banned. This conflict illustrates a common structural problem of farming in industrialised countries, requiring research projects and stakeholder panels to avoid polarisation and destructive dynamics.The German Study Site at the Tachenhausen research farm is investigating the effects of glyphosate in a cropping system with cover crops and reduced tillage without ploughing. The use of glyphosate is currently highly debated, with public opinion pushing towards prohibition of this herbicide. Currently, as conventional conservation agriculture systems depend on herbicide use for weed control, it is important to understand the effects of glyphosate on soil biology. It is also important to develop alternative management practices to eliminate its use in the event that it is banned. This conflict illustrates a common structural problem of farming in industrialised countries, requiring research projects and stakeholder panels to avoid polarisation and destructive dynamics.

In the field experiment the four treatments consist of: cover crops and glyphosate application, cover crops without glyphosate application, glyphosate application without cover crops and no glyphosate with no cover crops. All four treatments are replicated four times (= 16 Plots) on 12m² plots.

This year’s season in Tachenhausen began on February 20th, when the cover crops were mulched on frozen soils. All plots were tilled with a rotary harrow 5 cm deep on March 26th. Glyphosate was applied on the corresponding treatments for seedbed preparation on April 12th. The maize variety “Figaro” was planted on April 25th on every plot, with a density of 9.5 plants/m². This year’s season in Tachenhausen began on February 20th, when the cover crops were mulched on frozen soils. All plots were tilled with a rotary harrow 5 cm deep on March 26th. Glyphosate was applied on the corresponding treatments for seedbed preparation on April 12th. The maize variety “Figaro” was planted on April 25th on every plot, with a density of 9.5 plants/m². 

In May, monitoring started with students from agro-biological sciences at the University of Hohenheim. In the video, the acquisition of abundance and biomass data on earthworms is presented. Please see here. For this date, the results showed around 36-60 earthworms/m². In sandy loam soils this corresponds to a medium abundance level. Abundance was highest on plots where previously cover crops were grown, although this observation was not statistically significant.

At the end of June, a stakeholder meeting was held with 18 participants including farmers, researchers, agricultural administration and industry.At the end of June, a stakeholder meeting was held with 18 participants including farmers, researchers, agricultural administration and industry.

Part of the discussion was based around a first set of applicability maps produced by the WP6 team.  These maps were developed to identify where in Baden-Württemberg conservation agriculture can be applied and where it is relevant to apply conservation agriculture to combat organic matter decline in Germany.  

Approach to the development of applicability maps

The applicability maps are created as part of the upscaling activities in the project.  As part of the process of constructing the applicability maps, Study Site partners were asked to complete a questionnaire about relevant soil, climate and land use characteristics for application of their SICS. This information was combined with European climate, soil and land use data in order to create maps indicating where in Europe the SICS could be applied.  Furthermore, the question was raised where it would be relevant to apply the SICS. Are there specific locations with threats the SICS can mitigate or specific soil characteristics the SICS can improve, such as water erosion, compaction, soil organic matter levels)?  Again using European maps together with questionnaire data, relevance maps for the selected SICS were developed. By combining both maps, information is provided on the locations where it is relevant and possible to apply the SICS.  For use during the Study Site workshops, regional cut-outs of the maps were provided as these were found more relevant to discuss with local and regional stakeholders than maps for Europe.  Base maps selected for the creation of the applicability maps included: land use, soil fertility and soil texture. For the relevance map only soil organic matter was included.

Overall applicability
Conservation agriculture
Baden Wurttemberg
 Applicability in relevant areas
Conservation agriculture
Baden Wurttebberg
 Maps1  Maps2
Legend

During the discussions it was agreed that the term ‘conservation agriculture’ on which the maps are based is sometimes too broad and may in fact include practices that do not necessarily have a positive impact on soil organic matter.  It was also suggested that including other soil threats, such as water and wind erosion as relevance base maps would be of interest.  The outcome of the discussion was to ask for additional and updated maps for cover crops and for direct seeding, separately. These maps are currently being developed and will be presented for discussion at the next stakeholder meeting in November. When the process is finished, the maps will have multiple uses, including use in planning and dissemination activities.During the discussions it was agreed that the term ‘conservation agriculture’ on which the maps are based is sometimes too broad and may in fact include practices that do not necessarily have a positive impact on soil organic matter.  It was also suggested that including other soil threats, such as water and wind erosion as relevance base maps would be of interest.  The outcome of the discussion was to ask for additional and updated maps for cover crops and for direct seeding, separately. These maps are currently being developed and will be presented for discussion at the next stakeholder meeting in November. When the process is finished, the maps will have multiple uses, including use in planning and dissemination activities.

For more information about the German study site, please contact Paula Mayer-Gruner: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

For more information about the applicability maps, please contact Hedwig van Delden: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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