No-tillage and conventional plough tillage have been compared on a soil of medium heavy texture in a crop rotation without fallow period at the Inforama Ruetti in Zollikofen (Berne) since 1994. For the crop rotation period from 1999 to 2005 the environmental impact of both systems was calculated via life cycle assessment. With regard to resources, nutrients and pollutant management, the environmental impact of the no-tillage system is more favourable than the conventional system involving periodical tillage operations, both per hectare of arable land and annum, and per kilogram of harvested dry matter. For the no-tillage system positive changes were also found in the assessment of soil quality. It is essential to follow up the impacts of the slightly higher herbicide requirement characterizing the no-tillage system. In both systems, however, pollutant management is strongly influenced by the choice of the active ingredient applied. According to model calculations in which slope gradient was varied, the risk of soil erosion and P-runoff remained constantly low up to a gradient of 18 % in the no-tillage system. In contrast, the risk of runoff increased steeply with increasing slope gradient in the conventional tillage system.
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.