This study presents an indicator for soil cover, developed within the framework of the Federal Office for Agriculture agri-environmental monitoring programme. The indicator takes aspects such as crop type as well as cultivation practices such as rotation and tillage into account, incorporating technical data as well as data from crop model simulations. The indicator was applied to a dataset obtained from the Swiss agri-environmental data network (SAEDN), which represented an average of 226 farms over five different years. The results show that, at farm level, arable farming achieves an average of only 62% soil cover, compared to nearly 100% soil cover for grassland farming. At field level, some crops do not allow sufficient cover to be achieved – in particular winter wheat, with a mean soil cover of just 44%. Despite this, certain crop-management practices, such as the introduction of cover crops during the pre-sowing period or good residue management, allow the improvement of overall soil cover.
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.