Subsidies for conservation agriculture [Switzerland]


approaches_2632 - Switzerland

Completeness: 92%

1. General information

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

Key resource person(s)

SLM specialist:

Wyler Roman


SLM specialist:

Hofer Peter

+41 (0)31 970 53 37

Amt für Landwirtschaft und Natur des Kantons Bern LANAT

Rütti, 3052 Zollikofen


Name of the institution(s) which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Approach (if relevant)
Amt für Landwirtschaft und Natur des Kantons Bern (LANAT) - Switzerland

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:


1.4 Reference(s) to Questionnaire(s) on SLM Technologies

Direct seeding

Direct seeding [Switzerland]

A cropping system which allows to plant the seeds directly into the soil without ploughing. The soil is covered with plant remainders.

  • Compiler: Unknown User

2. Description of the SLM Approach

2.1 Short description of the Approach

Land users commit to apply conservation agriculture on parts of their land for a period of 5 years. In return they get subsidies during this period.

2.2 Detailed description of the Approach

Detailed description of the Approach:

Aims / objectives: The Swiss environment protection law defines that soil fertility must be conserved on a long term basis. The cantons have to execute this national law. The way this is done differs from canton to canton. In this study the strategy of the canton of Berne is documented. It has three major goals: The prevention of soil erosion, the reduction of nitrate wash out and the prevention of soil compaction.

Methods: To reach these goals, farmers who accept to use conservation technologies can get additional subsidies for a period of 5 years. Furthermore they are supported by advisors. In this way land users are encouraged to change to soil conservation technologies, financial risk during the establishment phase is reduced due to the subsidies. The approach consist basically of a contract between land users and the office for soil conservation, in which land users commit to apply only soil conservation technologies on parts or on all their land during a period of 5 years. During that time direct seeding must be applied at least 2 times for main crops and for half of the catch crops. For the remaining crops ploughing is not allowed either. Technologies which reduce the reworking of the soil such as maize strip tillage ('Streifenfrässaat') or mulching need to be applied. In return land users get subsidies (during 5 years) which depend on the crop and the technology used. The highest subsidies are granted if direct seeding is used. The office for soil conservation is running a demonstration study comparing direct seeding to conventional agriculture. This helps land users to estimate the effects the new technology would have when applied in practice. If a specific farm receives the subsidies depends on whether in the running year there is still financial resources for the program. Resources have been limited by the government. Additionally it depends on where the farm is located. Farms that located in regions of major nitrate contamination, enhanced risk of eronsion or soil compaction or in regions with drinking water sources or polluted surface water are incorporated first. Land users can have their whole farm or single fields under contract. However a specific field can not be under contract for more than one period (5 years). As soon as a farmer gets a contract, details about which crop to plant where and when, with which technology are discussed by the farmer and an advisor.

Other important information: The goal is to find the best solution for every land user. Meetings of that kind take place on a regular basis. Besides supporting the farmer, advisors also check if conservation agriculture technologies are really being applied. After the 5 years under contract, it is the land users choice whether they want to continue using conservation technologies or not. Monitoring of the office for soil conservation shows that 85% keep on using conservation technologies. Its seems that the approach has a long term influence and subsidies are needed in the beginning only.

2.3 Photos of the Approach

2.5 Country/ region/ locations where the Approach has been applied



Region/ State/ Province:

Canton of Berne

2.6 Dates of initiation and termination of the Approach

Indicate year of initiation:



It is possible to get subsidies in the whole canton of Berne. Cropland area in the canton is 539 km2, 2517 ha were under contract in the year 2006.

2.7 Type of Approach

  • project/ programme based

2.8 Main aims/ objectives of the Approach

The Approach focused on SLM only

Spreading of conservation agriculture in areas with an enhanced risk for soil erosion and or washing out of nutritients. Good quality support so that farmers will not have lower crop yield due to the technology and therefore continue using conservation agriculture after 5 years without external support.

The SLM Approach addressed the following problems: Water erosion under intense rainfall. Washing out of Nitrate to the ground water. Soil compaction.

2.9 Conditions enabling or hindering implementation of the Technology/ Technologies applied under the Approach

social/ cultural/ religious norms and values
  • hindering

Ploughing is an important part of the tradition of agriculture. People are very critical towards no-tillage technologies, since they don't fit the common understanding of agriculture.

Treatment through the SLM Approach: The people working in the project are farmers themselves. They can give on their practical experience. Furthermore a demonstration study can be visited

availability/ access to financial resources and services
  • hindering

Most farmers have achinery for conventional agriculture. To change to conservation agriculture major investments need to be done or contractors need to be tasked. Furthermore crop yield can be lowered in the beginning.

Treatment through the SLM Approach: When changing to conservation agriculture farmers are supported financially for a period of 5 years.With this money the risk in case of crop failure ond the costs for a contractor are can test a new techniquewithout major expenses or risks

legal framework (land tenure, land and water use rights)
  • hindering

If the owner of the farm changes, the new owner often returns to conventional agriculture.

Treatment through the SLM Approach: No solution inside the project

The existing land ownership, land use rights / water rights hindered a little the approach implementation In Switzerland the number of farms is decreasing. New owners of land sometimes change back to conventional agriculture. It is possible however, that the new owner introduces conservation technologies.

  • hindering

In Switzerland there are subsidies to support farmers in hilly terrain. This encourages farmers plant crops on steeper slopes and therefore enhances the risk of erosion. This is not a constraint for the technology however.

Treatment through the SLM Approach: Conservation agriculture helps to reduce erosion. However the project cannot change the fact, that these subsidies enhance the risk of erosion.

3. Participation and roles of stakeholders involved

3.1 Stakeholders involved in the Approach and their roles

  • local land users/ local communities

Contracts are signed by the office for soil conservation and the head of the farm, who in general is male. The decision about which technology is applied is usually taken at the household level including both women and men.

  • SLM specialists/ agricultural advisers
  • national government (planners, decision-makers)

The national government tasked the cantons with soil conservation. Therefore approaches differ from canton to canton.

3.2 Involvement of local land users/ local communities in the different phases of the Approach
Involvement of local land users/ local communities Specify who was involved and describe activities
initiation/ motivation none The project was introduced through the office for soil conservation
planning interactive Landusers who wish to get subsidies have contact the office for soil conservation. It is the land users decision on which of their fields they want apply the technology.
implementation external support Land user get subsidies for a period of 5 years, during which they have to apply soil conservation technologies. To actually use the technology they task a contractor or do the work on their own.
monitoring/ evaluation interactive As there are discussions with the advisor on a regular basis, the implementation of the technology is monitored both by the farmer and the advisor.
Research none There is a demonstration study where direct seeding and conventional agriculture is compared.

3.3 Flow chart (if available)


Interactions between the office for soil conservation and land users during the progression of the project.


Roman Wyler

3.4 Decision-making on the selection of SLM Technology/ Technologies

Specify who decided on the selection of the Technology/ Technologies to be implemented:
  • mainly SLM specialists, following consultation with land users

The decisions were taken by the office for soil conservation. Since these people are working as farmers, too, land users perspective could be included.

Decisions on the method of implementing the SLM Technology were made by mainly by land users supported by SLM specialists. To get the subsidies criteria from the contract need to be accepted. Besides this, land users can decide on their own how land is cultivated.

4. Technical support, capacity building, and knowledge management

4.1 Capacity building/ training

Was training provided to land users/ other stakeholders?


4.2 Advisory service

Do land users have access to an advisory service?


Specify whether advisory service is provided:
  • on land users' fields
Describe/ comments:

nnual meetings between land user and advisor; Key elements: Technical support, Planning of crop rotation and technologies applied, Monitoring

Advisory service is quite adequate to ensure the continuation of land conservation activities; Following a study of the office for soil conservation most land users continue to use conservation technologies after the end of the contract.

4.3 Institution strengthening (organizational development)

Have institutions been established or strengthened through the Approach?
  • yes, a little
Specify the level(s) at which institutions have been strengthened or established:
  • local
Give further details:

The office for soil conservation was involved in Swiss no-till, which is a platform to exchange knowledge.

4.4 Monitoring and evaluation

Is monitoring and evaluation part of the Approach?



bio-physical aspects were regular monitored by 0 through observations; indicators: advisory meetings

technical aspects were regular monitored by 0 through observations; indicators: advisory meetings

economic / production aspects were None monitored by 0 through measurements; indicators: farmer himself

area treated aspects were None monitored by government through measurements; indicators: only the area under contract is known

no. of land users involved aspects were None monitored by 0 through None; indicators: only the number of land users under contract is known

survey aspects were None monitored by land users through None; indicators: afther the first two years there was an evalution of the project. Farmers were asked for their opini

4.5 Research

Was research part of the Approach?


Specify topics:
  • technology
Give further details and indicate who did the research:

Research is not part of the actual project. However the advisors are involved in research projects through other activities. Therefore new knowledge is usually incorporated in the advisory meetings.

Research was carried out both on station and on-farm

5. Financing and external material support

5.1 Annual budget for the SLM component of the Approach

If precise annual budget is not known, indicate range:
  • 100,000-1,000,000
Comments (e.g. main sources of funding/ major donors):

Approach costs were met by the following donors: government (Kanton Bern): 100.0%

5.2 Financial/ material support provided to land users

Did land users receive financial/ material support for implementing the Technology/ Technologies?


If yes, specify type(s) of support, conditions, and provider(s):

Canton of Berne

5.3 Subsidies for specific inputs (including labour)

  • agricultural
Specify which inputs were subsidised To which extent Specify subsidies
seeds partly financed
fertilizers partly financed

There are subsidies per field under contract for a period of 5 years. During that time direct seeding must be applied at least 2 times for main crops and for half of the catch crops. For the remaining crops ploughing is not allowed either.

5.4 Credit

Was credit provided under the Approach for SLM activities?


6. Impact analysis and concluding statements

6.1 Impacts of the Approach

Did the Approach help land users to implement and maintain SLM Technologies?
  • No
  • Yes, little
  • Yes, moderately
  • Yes, greatly

the advisory meetings help land users to better understand soil processes.

Did the Approach empower socially and economically disadvantaged groups?
  • No
  • Yes, little
  • Yes, moderately
  • Yes, greatly
Did other land users / projects adopt the Approach?
  • No
  • Yes, little
  • Yes, moderately
  • Yes, greatly

Other cantons in Switzerland have started to subsidise conservation agriculture too.

Did the Approach lead to improved livelihoods / human well-being?
  • No
  • Yes, little
  • Yes, moderately
  • Yes, greatly

income is slightly enhanced in most cases.

Did the Approach help to alleviate poverty?
  • No
  • Yes, little
  • Yes, moderately
  • Yes, greatly

6.2 Main motivation of land users to implement SLM

  • increased profit(ability), improved cost-benefit-ratio
  • payments/ subsidies
  • environmental consciousness

prevention of erosion

6.3 Sustainability of Approach activities

Can the land users sustain what has been implemented through the Approach (without external support)?
  • yes
If yes, describe how:

on a long term perspective conservation agriculture is rather cheaper. Only in the beginning it costs more.

6.4 Strengths/ advantages of the Approach

Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the land user’s view
Not land user, but advisor of the project!
The structure of the project enables individual solutions. Still there are incentives for conservation agriculture. (How to sustain/ enhance this strength: Working together with the land users, searching for the best individual solution.)
After the end of the contract, there are no costs anymore. (How to sustain/ enhance this strength: armers should be supported as good as possible, so that they are familiar with the technology and continue to apply it after the end of the contract.)
Advisors involved in the project all have an agricultural background, they are therefore familiar with the problems of farmers. (How to sustain/ enhance this strength: Working together with the farmers and trying adjust the program to their needs.)

6.5 Weaknesses/ disadvantages of the Approach and ways of overcoming them

Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks in the land user’s view How can they be overcome?
Compared to the total number of farms the number of participants is rather small. conditions for participation could be reduced in order to reach more people. This would however increase the costs.
Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view How can they be overcome?
Subsidies are expensive for the state. Since resources are limited there is already a waiting list for the farmers. soil consvervation should get a higher importance in politics. This is not the case because most people don't even know that soil degradation is a problem.
f there is no possibility to rent the machines in the region, costs are very high, even if there are subsidies. here it could be a possiblity to support contractors to buy the machines needed, so that land users could apply the technology at lower costs.

7. References and links

7.1 Methods/ sources of information

  • field visits, field surveys
  • interviews with SLM specialists/ experts

7.2 References to available publications

Title, author, year, ISBN:

Amt für Landwirtschaft und Natur des Kantons Bern LANAT, Rütti, 3052 Zollikofen. Kanton Bern fördert Ressourcen schonenden Ackerbau.AGRARForschung 14 (3): 128-133, 2007.

Available from where? Costs?

Links and modules

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