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Maurer C., Müller D., Lanfranchi M., Weisskopf P., Oberholzer H., Walder F.

Measuring Life in the Soil

Microbial activity in the soil is an indicator of soil health. An analysis of data series from the cantonal soil-monitoring networks over a ten-year period confirms textbook knowledge and shows what we need to look out for.

Chiaia-Hernández A.C., Scheringer M., Müller A., Stieger G., Wächter D., Keller A., Pintado-Herrera M.G., Lara-Martin P.A., Bucheli T.D. und Hollender J.

Early Recognition and Systematic Recording of Organic Pollutants in Soils and Sediments

Researchers from Agroscope, Eawag and ETH have developed a method for the comprehensive detection of organic pollutant residues in soils and sediments. Initial results show that, in addition to known substances, there are also a number of substances detected for the first time.

Sutter L., Aebi A., Buchwalder G., Caballé P., Dietemann V., Girardin O., Hernandez J., Jacopin-Bucher E., Mayor P., Ménétrier V., Praz Ch., Varennes Y.-D.

Farmers, beekeepers and researchers unite to safeguard pollinators

Recent studies show a decline in the abundance and diversity of wild pollinators, as well as an increase in honeybee mortality. These pollinators are an integral part of biodiversity and play an essential role in the growing of certain crops and in wild plant reproduction. In the Swiss cantons of Vaud and Jura, and in…

Kalberer A., Kawecki-Wenger D., Bucheli Th.

Plastic waste flows in Swiss agriculture and their risk potential for soils

Plastic products are omnipresent in our everyday lives and are so versatile and efficient that it is difficult to imagine modern agriculture without them. However, in combination with littering and as foreign materials in digestate and compost fertilisers, they are also the main source of plastic inputs on agricultural land. Using material flow analysis, this…

Janker J., Fuchs K., Krütli P.

Social sustainability in agriculture: a media analysis

Nowadays, the term «sustainability» is ubiquitous – in politics, in science, and in everyday speech. What it means, however, and what ideas are associated with it, varies significantly. Thus, for example, the social dimension is largely neglected in the discourse on sustainability. Perception of sustainability is influenced inter alia by the media, political programmes or…

Ritschard E., Zingg S., Arlettaz R., Humbert J-Y.

Biodiversity promotion areas: increasing their proportion and quality benefits birds and butterflies

The intensification of agricultural practices has led to an alarming decline in farmland biodiversity. With the aim of stopping and even reversing this trend, biodiversity promotion areas (BPA – formerly named «ecological compensation areas») were introduced in the 1990s. In this study, the influence of BPA on the biodiversity of butterflies and breeding birds was…

Riedel S., Lüscher G., Meier E., Herzog F., Hofer G.

Ecological Quality of Meadows Supported with Biodiversity Contributions

The «Agriculture-Related Environmental Objectives» (AEOs) set binding targets for the conservation of species and habitat diversity in the agricultural landscape. For these, lists of species meriting particular consideration (AEO species) were drawn up. An initial evaluation of the ALL-EMA «Agricultural Species and Habitats» Monitoring Programme shows that in Switzerland, on average only 13 % of…

Ammann C., Voglmeier K., Münger A., Bretscher D.

Reduction of ammonia emissions on pasture

What is the effect of a low-protein feed supplement on the ammonia emissions from dairy cattle on pasture? To answer this question, the ammonia emissions from two pasture-based feeding systems with dairy cattle were measured and compared between May and October. In the first system (G) the cows fed exclusively on pasture grass, whilst in…

Mayer J., Zimmermann M., Weggler K., Reiser R., Bürge D., Bucheli Th., Richner W.

Pollutant threshold values for mineral recycling fertilisers: the Swiss concept

Phosphorus is an essential nutrient for plant growth. Switzerland is reliant upon the import of phosphorus fertilisers, which come from deposit reserves and are increasingly burdened with pollutants. On the other hand, there are hitherto unused phosphorus stocks in sewage sludge and slaughterhouse waste that could completely replace fertiliser imports. Therefore, Switzerland has introduced the…

Maurer C., Oehl F., Zihlmann U., Chervet A., Sturny W. G.

Cropping systems affect species diversity of mycorrhizal fungi

Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AM fungi) diversity was investigated in 12 selected long-term soil observation sites in the canton of Bern. These consisted of nine soils farmed according to Proof of Ecological Performance (PEP) production guidelines, of which three were natural meadows, three were no-till (NT) or ploughed (PL) arable soils, and three were ploughed arable…

Bretscher D., Ammann Ch., Wüst Ch., Nyfeler A., Felder D.

Potential for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from Swiss animal husbandry

The Swiss agricultural and climate policy- making sector has set itself the target of reducing agricultural greenhouse gas emissions by at least one-third by 2050 compared to 1990’s figures. This target can be achieved via technical measures on the production side and/or by reorganising agricultural structures (area percentages, animal populations). Animal husbandry is responsible for…

Schrade S., Zeyer K., Keck M., Keller M., Zähner M., Mohn J.

Validation of the tracer ratio method for emission measurements in naturally ventilated housing

The tracer ratio method serves to quantify emissions in naturally ventilated animal housing systems. Empa and Agroscope have developed a tracer ratio method with two tracer gases for comparative emission measurements in Agroscope’s experimental dairy housing, with its two spatially separated compartments. In this method, the tracer gases sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) and trifluoromethyl sulphur pentafluoride…

Roesch A., Marton S., Thalmann Ch., Schader Ch., Grenz J., Gaillard G.

Measuring sustainability at farm level: what tool for what purpose?

There are three methods available for evaluating sustainability at farm level that were developed in Switzerland: RISE, SMART und SALCAsustain. In this article, the three methods are compared by means of a list of criteria and several concrete examples with the aim of making it easier for readers to decide which tool is best suited…

Humbert J-Y., Buri P., Unternährer D., Arlettaz R.

Alternative mowing regimes to favour meadow biodiversity

In Switzerland, biodiversity promotion areas or BPAs (i.e. land under Swiss agri-environment schemes) account for around 15 % of the utilised agricultural area. While the main objective of BPAs is to promote farmland biodiversity, their effectiveness remains limited, in particular as regards the incidence of invertebrates in the lowlands. In this study, the mowing regime…

Schrade S., Zeyer K., Emmenegger L., Keck M.

Particulate matter (PM10) emissions from dairy loose housing with outdoor exercise area

To improve the underlying data for emission inventories, particulate matter (PM10) emissions were determined for the most common loose-housing system in Switzerland. Emission measurements were conducted in two out of three seasons (summer, transition period, winter) per farm in six naturally ventilated dairy loose-housing systems comprising cubicles, solid floors and an outdoor exercise area. PM10…

Zumwald J., Braunschweig M., Hofstetter P., Reidy B., Nemecek Th.

Life-cycle assessment of pasture- and grassland-based milk production systems

As part of the project ’Optimisation of Grassland-Based Milk Production Systems based on Fresh-Grass Harvesting (Hohenrain II)’, we used the SALCA life-cycle assessment method to compare the environmental impacts of three systems, viz. full-grazing with seasonal calving and two variants of fresh-grass harvesting with differing use of concentrates (< 500 kg/cow/ year and 800–1200 kg/cow/year).…

Jarosch K., Richner W., Mayer J.

Nitrogen-use efficiency of biogas digestate

The digestion of farmyard manure and other organic materials has become increasingly important in recent years. The digestion process produces biogas (methane), and increases the proportion of easily available nitrogen compounds in the digestate produced. To date, there has been little research on the fertiliser value of digested farmyard manure that is of relevance to…

Prasuhn V., Doppler T., Spycher S., Stamm Ch.

Reducing PPP inputs due to erosion and runoff

Many Swiss streams exhibit high levels of plant-protection product (PPP) inputs, with erosion and runoff being important entry paths. This article furnishes an overview of measures for reducing PPP inputs into bodies of water from arable land due to erosion, runoff and drainage, and provides an expert-based qualitative evaluation of these measures in terms of…

Blanckenhorn W.U., Jochmann R., Walter Th.

Biodiversity of cow-dung insects and other pasture dwellers not correlated

The biodiversity of agricultural land is usually measured via indicator species that can be recorded time- and cost-efficiently. Behind this approach lies the seldom-questioned assumption that these groups of organisms are good at reflecting the overall species diversity of a habitat. We tested this assumption by comparing the diversity of cow-dung insects with that of…

Prasuhn V., Möhring A., Bystricky M., Nemecek T., Gaillard G.

Economic and ecological assessment of scenarios for nutrient reduction in water bodies

Four different scenarios for the reduction of diffuse nutrient inputs from agriculture to water bodies in Switzerland were analysed for the period 2010 to 2025 in a multidisciplinary project. The agricultural sector model SWISSland was used to examine the economic and structural effects, and the influence on the direct payments budget and sectoral income, following…

Sutter L., Herzog F., Dietemann V., Charrière J.-D., Albrecht M.

Demand, supply and value of insect pollination for the swiss agricultural production

For some field crops, and especially fruits and berries, harvested yield quantity and quality are dependent on pollination by insects. According to global estimates, honeybees and wild bees contribute equally to this ecosystem service, although there are no systematic studies for Switzerland. Now, for the first time, and with the help of data on the…

Seitz B., Carrard E., Burgos St., Tatti D., Herzog F., Jäger M., Sereke F.

Increased SOM stocks in a seven-year-old agroforestry system in central Switzerland

Modern agroforestry systems have the potential to combine productive agriculture with increased environmental benefits. Because these systems have only recently been tested by a few farmers in Switzerland, there is hardly any data available on the environmental impacts of modern agroforestry systems. In this study, we examined the changes in soil organic matter (SOM) stocks…

Chevillat V., Stöckli S., Birrer S., Jenny M., Graf R., Pfiffner L., Zellweger-Fischer J.

Agricultural extension gives rise to greater proportions of biodiversity priority areas of higher quality

The shortage of high-quality Biodiversity Priority Areas (BPAs) is one reason for the ongoing decline in biodiversity in the cultural landscape. Many farm holdings have the potential to increase the quality of their BPAs. One approach to leveraging this potential is whole-farm extension, which takes into account both the ecological and economic parameters of the…

Krauss M., Perrochet F., Lori M., Ruser R., Müller T., Zikeli S., Gruber S., Claupein W., Mäder P., Gattinger A.

Reduced tillage in organic farming – climate aspects

The conversion from ploughing to reduced tillage is discussed in the context of increased humus accumulation as an opportunity to mitigate climate change. To date, little attention has been paid to the question whether reduced tillage systems in organic farming result in increased nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions. Thus, as part of FiBL’s long-term tillage trial…

Finger R., Böcker Th., Möhring N., Dalhaus T.

Incentive taxes on pesticides: economic analysis, experiences from Europe and the effects of accompanying measures

Incentive taxes on pesticides can contribute towards reducing the risk of negative external effects on the environment and human health in real terms. A meta analysis of the elasticity of demand for pesticides shows that the use of pesticides is price-sensitive. Experiences with existing tax systems in other European countries also show that it is…