Bernese Office for Agriculture and Environment, Rütti, Zollikofen

Comparison of no-tillage and conventional plough tillage – a synthesis

No-tillage and conventional plough tillage have been compared in a crop rotation without fallow period and application of mineral fertilizer only, in the long-term field trial “Oberacker” at the Inforama Ruetti in Zollikofen (Berne) since 1994. The slightly humic sandy loam is a deep and nutrient-rich soil. The results obtained so far show continuous no-tillage of long duration to be an alternative to traditional plough tillage: no-tillage is ready to be put into agronomical practice, it leads to a biologically active soil of stable structure and thus of high load capacity, reduces the risk of soil erosion, the number of vehicle crossings and the consumption of fuel and presents an overall more favourable life cycle assessment. After a seven-year conversion period, slightly higher plant yields of comparable quality were obtained in no-tillage, due to more soil water being preserved and continually delivered to plant roots, as well as to a higher N-efficiency. In both cropping systems only about 60% of the standard amounts of N-fertilizer were applied. In the coming years both systems shall be tested further and optimised with regard to environmental sustainability and energy consumption by introducing more legume crops, applying ammonium-based N-fertilizer, and by reducing the application of glyphosate in no-tillage and the tillage intensity in conventional plough tillage.

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