Agroscope, Institute for Plant Production Sciences IPS, 1260 Nyon, Switzerland

Chances of soil conserving tillage practices in Switzerland

The 7th report about agriculture of the Swiss Federal Council laid the foundations for a new ecological direction of Swiss agriculture. Additionally, the revision of the federal act on environment protection extended the legal measures of soil protection. Henceforth, physical and mechanical impacts that cause persistent damage of soil fertility must be avoided. In agriculture, above all soil protection against physical degradation has to be implemented by means of soil conserving tillage techniques. Experts from research institutions, consulting firms, authorities, agricultural information centres, and NGOs discussed the state of the art of the implementation of soil conserving tillage techniques at a workshop. The experts distinguished three essential problems: Spatial, political or economic constraints complicate or impede the application of soil conserving tillage techniques. Information and instruction is insufficient for the implementation of soil conserving tillage, as long as the actors (farmers) are not directly affected by short-term yield reduction due to soil physical degradation and, therefore, are not committed to conserving tillage techniques. There is still an essential lack of information to make the right decision in the sense of soil conservation in any single case. The main conclusion of the discussion was, that the implementation of soil physical protection in agriculture is a problem of decision-making, above all. There is a strong need for unambiguous criteria and thresholds as well as for robust and transparent decision support systems to evaluate soil conserving tillage techniques.

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