The objective of the long-term project of Burgrain, on a mixed farm near Lucerne (Switzerand), is to compare integrated, conventional and low input farming systems taking agronomical, economical and ecological characteristics into consideration. Since 1992 soil tilth has been characterized every year by spade diagnostics and measurements of aggregate stability. The quality of the soil structure was mainly influenced by cultivation practices and soil moisture conditions at the time of cultivation, whereas aggregate stability depended mostly on the content of clay and organic matter. Because the soil cultivation practices only differed little among the three farming systems, no clear effects of the farming systems on soil structure were evident after seven years.
Symbiotic nitrogen fixation by bacteria in the soil coexisting with legumes leads to reduced fertiliser requirement. It is not easy to measure this variable on farms, however. Now researchers from Agroscope have developed a method for estimating nitrogen input via symbiotic fixation at farm level.
With increasing global and regional temperatures, even in Switzerland the growing season has lengthened considerably. Using data from the Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology, Agroscope has traced the development of the growing season since the start of the previous century.
The phosphate mineral reserves required for fertiliser production could be exhausted on a global scale in just a few decades. This study presents a method for recycling a Swiss industrial by-product into a phosphate fertiliser.