Technologies

Reduced tillage - Non-inversion and shallow cultivation in organic systems [United Kingdom]

Non-inversion and shallow cultivation in organic systems

technologies_5012 - United Kingdom

Completeness: 82%

1. معلومات عامة

1.2 Contact details of resource persons and institutions involved in the assessment and documentation of the Technology

Key resource person(s)

land user:

Weir Callum

The National Trust

United Kingdom

Name of project which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
European Interreg project FABulous Farmers
Name of the institution(s) which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) - United Kingdom
Name of the institution(s) which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
The National Trust (National Trust) - United Kingdom

1.3 Conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT

The compiler and key resource person(s) accept the conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT:

نعم

1.4 Declaration on sustainability of the described Technology

Is the Technology described here problematic with regard to land degradation, so that it cannot be declared a sustainable land management technology?

لا

2. Description of the SLM Technology

2.1 Short description of the Technology

Definition of the Technology:

Non-inversion and ‘shallow’ ploughing cultivation strategies on an organic farm, where the use of herbicides for weed control is prohibited.

2.2 Detailed description of the Technology

Description:

The shallow plough is used on land dominated by clay soils at an organically farmed estate, south of Cambridgeshire, UK. Previously, ‘conventional’ ploughs were used, which plough deeper than a shallow plough. However, ploughing deeper would often bring large chunks of raw clay from the subsoil to the surface. This would quickly solidify, locally referred as when the soil turns to ‘concrete’. Numerous cultivations were then required to reduce these ‘concrete’ soil chunks into a seed bed. It was a laborious, expensive task which sacrificed soil health to produce a less than satisfactory result. However, the farm still required a plough of some form as a means of weed control through inversion. As it is an organic estate, chemical sprays could not be used. A shallow plough was invested in as a way of striking the balance between overcoming the problems of creating a seedbed, but also maintaining the weed control benefits of inversion tillage. It has been very successful in reducing the input requirements, and at the same time increasing the quality of the output. Whilst shallow ploughing has challenges, such as full inversion of weeds in very dry conditions, on balance it is much better for the farming business than the previous alternative. We are able to do less damage to soil, and increase outputs which is important due to agricultural labour scarcity and smaller weather windows due to climate change.

Reduced tillage options have been a challenge to combat in organic systems where herbicides are prohibited. As such, trials of reduced tillage options have been explored. These include;
1)Non-inversion tillage where no ploughing is done and soil is cultivated to the first 100 mm.
2)Shallow ploughing where a specifically designed plough inverts soil to a depth of 125 mm, as opposed to traditional plough depths of 200 mm.

The purpose of this technology is to minimise soil disturbance to enhance the soil structure, biology and chemistry, whilst creating a seed bed and controlling weeds. The challenge on the specific site is there has been a history of annual plough, which has led to the proliferation of weeds that thrive on such systems. These include creeping thistle and common docks. As such, there was also the purpose of ‘disrupting’ the existing system in order to control these weeds. The only specific input required was a shallow plough, designed to invert soil from lower depths. For non-inversion tillage, a subsoiler and disc cultivator were used. The non-inversion tillage was done at two sites; one cereal stubble and one out of a fertility building two-year grass and clover ley.

Benefits/impacts/things land owners did/did not like:
Non-inversion tillage:
-Instead of ploughing, non-inversion tillage from the fertility ley allowed us to keep the soil structure from 2 years of grass/clover intact and in the right soil profile. We weren’t burying the friable, high-nutrient and porous top soil 200 mm under the ground and we weren’t lifting heavy, lower-aerobic soil to the surface where we wanted to plant.
-This meant that plants established quicker and we were able to drill later, despite the fields being very heavy, poorly drained fields.
-Weeds were killed, primarily through timely cultivations during a hot-spell, so that the cultivator brought roots to the surface to dry them.
-Drainage was evident after drilling as we were able to graze sheep on the wheat in March.
-Crops have tillered well and responded to nutrients.
-Establishment costs were approximately £30/ha cheaper.
-However, non-inversion tillage in cereal stubbles has not been as successful due to weed control, and whether the cheaper costs outweighs the weed burden remains to be assessed. The reason for this is not being able to cultivate during the hot weather (as this came before harvest).
-In addition, in cereal stubbles, we have seen less creeping thistles and docks, but more wild oats and cereal volunteers.

Shallow ploughing:
-Cheaper establishment costs through lower diesel usage (yet to be quantified).
-Better in many circumstances of inverting soil completely, but from a much lower depth.
-Did not bring up any large clumps of sub-soil which the conventional plough would. These result in much cultivations to break the clumps down.
-Ploughing ‘on-land’ meant that there was no smearing in the furrow from tyres.
-Lower HP requirement – 180 hp tractor ploughing 3.2 m to 125 mm on heavy land.
-Ploughing left over-winter did not require more than one cultivation before drilling as ploughed soil was friable from lower plough depth.
-That being said, there were favourable ploughing conditions in 2018. Regardless, we have sold our conventional plough because we like the shallow plough so much.

General benefits are:
-Reduced, prevented or restored land degradation
-Improved/preserved biodiversity
-Increased adaptation/resilience to climate change/extremes and its impacts
-A potential beneficial economic impact

The compilation of this SLM is a part of the European Interreg project FABulous Farmers which aims to reduce the reliance on external inputs by encouraging the use of methods and interventions that increase the farm’s Functional AgroBiodiversity (FAB). Visit www.fabulousfarmers.eu and www.nweurope.eu/Fabulous-Farmers for more information.

2.3 Photos of the Technology

2.5 Country/ region/ locations where the Technology has been applied and which are covered by this assessment

بلد:

United Kingdom

Further specification of location:

Wimpole Estate

Specify the spread of the Technology:
  • evenly spread over an area
If the Technology is evenly spread over an area, specify area covered (in km2):

4,0

If precise area is not known, indicate approximate area covered:
  • 1-10 km2
Is/are the technology site(s) located in a permanently protected area?

لا

2.6 Date of implementation

Indicate year of implementation:

2018

If precise year is not known, indicate approximate date:
  • less than 10 years ago (recently)

2.7 Introduction of the Technology

Specify how the Technology was introduced:
  • through land users' innovation
Comments (type of project, etc.):

Hosted on a demonstration farm, so able to take more risks. The ideas were adapted from other farmer’s ideas. Some of these principles have not been tried much in organic systems, which is why they are unique. However, they are becoming more commonplace in conventional systems.

3. Classification of the SLM Technology

3.1 Main purpose(s) of the Technology

  • reduce, prevent, restore land degradation
  • preserve/ improve biodiversity
  • adapt to climate change/ extremes and its impacts
  • mitigate climate change and its impacts
  • create beneficial economic impact

3.2 Current land use type(s) where the Technology is applied

Land use mixed within the same land unit:

لا


Cropland

Cropland

  • Annual cropping
Annual cropping - Specify crops:
  • cereals - other
  • fodder crops - clover
  • fodder crops - grasses
Number of growing seasons per year:
  • 1
Is intercropping practiced?

نعم

Is crop rotation practiced?

لا

3.3 Has land use changed due to the implementation of the Technology?

Has land use changed due to the implementation of the Technology?
  • No (Continue with question 3.4)
Land use mixed within the same land unit:

لا

3.4 Water supply

Water supply for the land on which the Technology is applied:
  • rainfed

3.5 SLM group to which the Technology belongs

  • minimal soil disturbance
  • integrated soil fertility management
  • water diversion and drainage

3.6 SLM measures comprising the Technology

agronomic measures

agronomic measures

  • A3: Soil surface treatment
  • A5: Seed management, improved varieties
A3: Differentiate tillage systems:

A 3.2: Reduced tillage (> 30% soil cover)

3.7 Main types of land degradation addressed by the Technology

soil erosion by wind

soil erosion by wind

  • Et: loss of topsoil
chemical soil deterioration

chemical soil deterioration

  • Cn: fertility decline and reduced organic matter content (not caused by erosion)
physical soil deterioration

physical soil deterioration

  • Pc: compaction
biological degradation

biological degradation

  • Bs: quality and species composition/ diversity decline
  • Bp: increase of pests/ diseases, loss of predators
water degradation

water degradation

  • Hs: change in quantity of surface water
  • Hg: change in groundwater/aquifer level
  • Hq: decline of groundwater quality
  • Hw: reduction of the buffering capacity of wetland areas

3.8 Prevention, reduction, or restoration of land degradation

Specify the goal of the Technology with regard to land degradation:
  • prevent land degradation
  • reduce land degradation

4. Technical specifications, implementation activities, inputs, and costs

4.2 General information regarding the calculation of inputs and costs

Specify how costs and inputs were calculated:
  • per Technology area
Indicate size and area unit:

4 ha

If using a local area unit, indicate conversion factor to one hectare (e.g. 1 ha = 2.47 acres): 1 ha =:

Approx. £45/ha – about 25% less than ‘deep ploughing’

other/ national currency (specify):

GBP

If relevant, indicate exchange rate from USD to local currency (e.g. 1 USD = 79.9 Brazilian Real): 1 USD =:

0,82

Indicate average wage cost of hired labour per day:

£90

4.3 Establishment activities

Activity Timing (season)
1. Use of shallow plough After harvest

4.4 Costs and inputs needed for establishment

Specify input Unit Quantity Costs per Unit Total costs per input % of costs borne by land users
Labour Person per day person day 1,0 90,0 90,0 100,0
Equipment Ovlac Shallow Plough (7+1f) (one off) 1 1,0 11000,0 11000,0 100,0
Equipment Tractor per day 1,0 180,0 180,0 100,0
Other Diesel (120 litres per day) ltrs per day 1,0 60,0 60,0 100,0
Total costs for establishment of the Technology 11330,0
Total costs for establishment of the Technology in USD 13817,07

4.5 Maintenance/ recurrent activities

Activity Timing/ frequency
1. Grease plough once per week
2. change plough points once per season

4.7 Most important factors affecting the costs

Describe the most determinate factors affecting the costs:

Most important factors affecting cost are decreased time spent ploughing and lower diesel cost, reducing establishment costs by £15 per ha.

5. Natural and human environment

5.1 Climate

Annual rainfall
  • < 250 mm
  • 251-500 mm
  • 501-750 mm
  • 751-1,000 mm
  • 1,001-1,500 mm
  • 1,501-2,000 mm
  • 2,001-3,000 mm
  • 3,001-4,000 mm
  • > 4,000 mm
Specifications/ comments on rainfall:

Highest rainfall month is August, which is important as this is when cultivations need to occur. As non-inversion and shallow ploughing are faster operations, this means that cultivations can occur at more optimum times.

Agro-climatic zone
  • sub-humid

5.2 Topography

Slopes on average:
  • flat (0-2%)
  • gentle (3-5%)
  • moderate (6-10%)
  • rolling (11-15%)
  • hilly (16-30%)
  • steep (31-60%)
  • very steep (>60%)
Landforms:
  • plateau/plains
  • ridges
  • mountain slopes
  • hill slopes
  • footslopes
  • valley floors
Altitudinal zone:
  • 0-100 m a.s.l.
  • 101-500 m a.s.l.
  • 501-1,000 m a.s.l.
  • 1,001-1,500 m a.s.l.
  • 1,501-2,000 m a.s.l.
  • 2,001-2,500 m a.s.l.
  • 2,501-3,000 m a.s.l.
  • 3,001-4,000 m a.s.l.
  • > 4,000 m a.s.l.
Indicate if the Technology is specifically applied in:
  • not relevant

5.3 Soils

Soil depth on average:
  • very shallow (0-20 cm)
  • shallow (21-50 cm)
  • moderately deep (51-80 cm)
  • deep (81-120 cm)
  • very deep (> 120 cm)
Soil texture (topsoil):
  • fine/ heavy (clay)
Soil texture (> 20 cm below surface):
  • fine/ heavy (clay)
Topsoil organic matter:
  • high (>3%)
If available, attach full soil description or specify the available information, e.g. soil type, soil PH/ acidity, Cation Exchange Capacity, nitrogen, salinity etc.

Gault clay/Hanslope clay, pH 7.5

5.4 Water availability and quality

Ground water table:

< 5 m

Availability of surface water:

medium

Water quality refers to:

both ground and surface water

Is water salinity a problem?

لا

Is flooding of the area occurring?

لا

5.5 Biodiversity

Species diversity:
  • high
Habitat diversity:
  • high

5.6 Characteristics of land users applying the Technology

Sedentary or nomadic:
  • Sedentary
Market orientation of production system:
  • commercial/ market
Off-farm income:
  • less than 10% of all income
Relative level of wealth:
  • average
Individuals or groups:
  • individual/ household
Level of mechanization:
  • mechanized/ motorized
Gender:
  • men
Age of land users:
  • middle-aged
  • elderly

5.7 Average area of land used by land users applying the Technology

  • < 0.5 ha
  • 0.5-1 ha
  • 1-2 ha
  • 2-5 ha
  • 5-15 ha
  • 15-50 ha
  • 50-100 ha
  • 100-500 ha
  • 500-1,000 ha
  • 1,000-10,000 ha
  • > 10,000 ha
Is this considered small-, medium- or large-scale (referring to local context)?
  • medium-scale

5.8 Land ownership, land use rights, and water use rights

Land ownership:
  • individual, titled
Land use rights:
  • leased
  • individual
Are land use rights based on a traditional legal system?

نعم

5.9 Access to services and infrastructure

health:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
education:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
technical assistance:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
employment (e.g. off-farm):
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
markets:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
energy:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
roads and transport:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
drinking water and sanitation:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
financial services:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good

6. Impacts and concluding statements

6.1 On-site impacts the Technology has shown

Socio-economic impacts

Production

crop production

decreased
increased

crop quality

decreased
increased

fodder production

decreased
increased
Comments/ specify:

Crop quality before SLM not able to handle grazing, but now can graze so large increase in fodder/animal production compared to previous model

animal production

decreased
increased
Comments/ specify:

Crop quality before SLM not able to handle grazing, but now can graze so large increase in fodder/animal production compared to previous model

land management

hindered
simplified
Income and costs

expenses on agricultural inputs

increased
decreased

farm income

decreased
increased

diversity of income sources

decreased
increased

workload

increased
decreased
Other socio-economic impacts

work/life balance

Socio-cultural impacts

recreational opportunities

reduced
improved

SLM/ land degradation knowledge

reduced
improved

Ecological impacts

Water cycle/ runoff

harvesting/ collection of water

reduced
improved

surface runoff

increased
decreased

excess water drainage

reduced
improved
Soil

soil moisture

decreased
increased

soil cover

reduced
improved

soil loss

increased
decreased

soil crusting/ sealing

increased
reduced

soil compaction

increased
reduced

nutrient cycling/ recharge

decreased
increased

soil organic matter/ below ground C

decreased
increased
Biodiversity: vegetation, animals

Vegetation cover

decreased
increased

biomass/ above ground C

decreased
increased

invasive alien species

increased
reduced

animal diversity

decreased
increased

beneficial species

decreased
increased

pest/ disease control

decreased
increased
Comments/ specify:

A small decrease in disease control with shallow ploughing is not as effective as inverting with a conventional plough. This is because less of the stubble from the previous crop would be inverted, creating a greater chance of disease carryover, for example Septoria nodorum blotch.

Climate and disaster risk reduction

flood impacts

increased
decreased

drought impacts

increased
decreased

6.2 Off-site impacts the Technology has shown

reliable and stable stream flows in dry season

reduced
increased

downstream flooding

increased
reduced

downstream siltation

increased
decreased

groundwater/ river pollution

increased
reduced

buffering/ filtering capacity

reduced
improved

wind transported sediments

increased
reduced

impact of greenhouse gases

increased
reduced

6.3 Exposure and sensitivity of the Technology to gradual climate change and climate-related extremes/ disasters (as perceived by land users)

Gradual climate change

Gradual climate change
Season increase or decrease How does the Technology cope with it?
annual temperature increase well
seasonal temperature spring increase well
annual rainfall decrease moderately
seasonal rainfall spring decrease well

Climate-related extremes (disasters)

Meteorological disasters
How does the Technology cope with it?
local rainstorm moderately
local thunderstorm moderately
Climatological disasters
How does the Technology cope with it?
heatwave moderately
drought moderately

Other climate-related consequences

Other climate-related consequences
How does the Technology cope with it?
extended growing period well
reduced growing period well

6.4 Cost-benefit analysis

How do the benefits compare with the establishment costs (from land users’ perspective)?
Short-term returns:

slightly positive

Long-term returns:

positive

How do the benefits compare with the maintenance/ recurrent costs (from land users' perspective)?
Short-term returns:

neutral/ balanced

Long-term returns:

slightly positive

6.5 Adoption of the Technology

  • single cases/ experimental
Of all those who have adopted the Technology, how many did so spontaneously, i.e. without receiving any material incentives/ payments?
  • 51-90%
Comments:

No govt. or private incentive for reduced tillage.

6.6 Adaptation

Has the Technology been modified recently to adapt to changing conditions?

لا

6.7 Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities of the Technology

Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the land user’s view
Cheaper establishment costs and quicker establishment time mean it will benefit the farm in the long term as labour becomes an issue (regardless of Brexit).
Makes soil more resilient to changing weather conditions, both drier and wetter conditions.
Reduced soil carbon emissions and diesel emissions from tractor.
Better soil structure, biology and chemistry to boost yield, plus allows us to use plough sparingly as a ‘reset’ button when we really need to.
However, there is a risk to yield if not used correctly. Plus, we may solve one weed issue (thistles and docks) and move to another weed issue (cereal volunteers, blackgrass and wild oats).

6.8 Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks of the Technology and ways of overcoming them

Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks in the land user’s view How can they be overcome?
We may solve one weed issue (thistles and docks) and move to another weed issue (cereal volunteers, blackgrass and wild oats). - Use dry June/July to non-invert fertility leys, allowing plough to be used as a reset button later in the rotation.
- Minimise non-inversion in cereal stubbles to cleanest crops.
Management demand to adapt technology to annual changes in conditions (not as easy as ploughing or spraying in any conditions – to do this, you must be adaptable). -Operator education
-Planning

7. References and links

7.1 Methods/ sources of information

  • interviews with land users

Sharing of other ideas on twitter from other farmers.

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