Shallow rotary tillage with microbial digestion [Luxembourg]


technologies_6878 - Luxembourg

Completeness: 86%

1. General information

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

Key resource person(s)

SLM specialist:

Mangen Michèle

Lycée technique Agricole (LTA)


SLM specialist:

Ruf Thorsten

IBLA institute fir biologesch Landwirtschaft an Agrarkultur Lëtzebuerg


land user:

Rossler Daniel



Name of project which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
European Interreg project FABulous Farmers

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 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?


2. Description of the SLM Technology

2.1 Short description of the Technology

Definition of the Technology:

Shallow rotary tillage with microbial digestion is a technique that is used to destroy cover crops and to manage stubble. The plant material is broken down to small pieces and incorporated into the surface layer of the soil. During the process bacteria and microbes are added to break down the plant material.

2.2 Detailed description of the Technology


The use of the herbicide glyphosate for terminating catch/ cover crops or field forage is increasingly coming under criticism. Simultaneously there is a movement towards farming methods that preserve soil health by reducing deep tillage. Thus, farmers have developed a surface rotting system that protects soil while safely eliminating a cover crop. “Shallow rotary tillage with microbial digestion” is a technique that is used to destroy cover crops and to manage stubble. Overwintering catch crops/undersown plants or field forage are turned over in spring or autumn. The plant material is broken down to small pieces and incorporated into the surface layer of the soil (around 5 cm deep). By use of a field rototiller, the vegetation is mechanically destroyed and mixed with the soil particles. Depending on the activity of organisms in the soil, microorganisms may then be introduced to accelerate the decomposition process of the plant material. A second pass may be required after 7- 14 days. Aerobic decomposition of the plant material takes place on the surface/ within the top layer of the soil. The advantages of this surface rotting can be summarised as follows:
•No synthetic agents are used.
•The soil is not inverted but only superficially mixed.
•The soil structure and its pore system are preserved.
•Organic material is introduced into the soil and thus soil organisms are promoted.
The challenge with surface rotting is the weather. The soil must be sufficiently dry to avoid creating smear layers, but if it is too dry, the fuel input to power the machine increases. However, if the weather is too wet after rototilling, there is a risk of re-growth of the plants. The blades of the tiller must be sufficiently sharp to cut the vegetative core of the plants well. The use of effective microorganisms is not yet scientifically proven - and the price of these products is high: some farmers even produce their own microbially-rich “compost tea”.

2.3 Photos of the Technology

2.4 Videos of the Technology

Comments, short description:





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



Region/ State/ Province:


Specify the spread of the Technology:
  • evenly spread over an area
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?


2.6 Date of implementation

Indicate year of implementation:


2.7 Introduction of the Technology

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

Developed through farmer's innovative idea to trial this system, and supported as part of the FABulous farmers project

3. Classification of the SLM Technology

3.1 Main purpose(s) of the Technology

  • improve production
  • reduce, prevent, restore land degradation
  • create beneficial economic impact

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

Land use mixed within the same land unit:




  • Annual cropping
  • Perennial (non-woody) cropping
Number of growing seasons per year:
  • 1
Is intercropping practiced?


Is crop rotation practiced?


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)

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

  • improved ground/ vegetation cover
  • minimal soil disturbance

3.6 SLM measures comprising the Technology

agronomic measures

agronomic measures

  • A2: Organic matter/ soil fertility

3.7 Main types of land degradation addressed by the Technology

soil erosion by water

soil erosion by water

  • Wt: loss of topsoil/ surface erosion
  • Wg: gully erosion/ gullying
physical soil deterioration

physical soil deterioration

  • Pk: slaking and crusting
water degradation

water degradation

  • Hq: decline of groundwater quality

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

4.1 Technical drawing of the Technology

Technical specifications (related to technical drawing):

Tillage depth: 5 cm
Speed of tractor: depending on soil type and soil conditions
Timing: Autumn or Spring before sowing of main crop
Number of applications: max 2


Michèle Mangen



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:


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

2.4 acres

other/ national currency (specify):


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


Indicate average wage cost of hired labour per day:


4.5 Maintenance/ recurrent activities

Activity Timing/ frequency
1. Change blades of rototiller Depends on soil type and amount of stones in the soil.
2. Agronomic: first tillage of field Before sowing main crop
3. Agronomic: second tillage of field (optional) Before sowing main crop

Applying effective microorganisms is done during tillage. If effective microorganisms are bought no time is needed for production. If applying "compost tea" then time for preparation has to be included

4.6 Costs and inputs needed for maintenance/ recurrent activities (per year)

Specify input Unit Quantity Costs per Unit Total costs per input % of costs borne by land users
Equipment Tractor+Rototiller+labour ha 1.0 105.0 105.0 100.0
Fertilizers and biocides Effective microorganisms (EM) litre 150.0 1.5 225.0 100.0
Other Consumables (usage of tillers) ha 1.0 45.0 45.0 33.0
Total costs for maintenance of the Technology 375.0
Total costs for maintenance of the Technology in USD 412.09
If land user bore less than 100% of costs, indicate who covered the remaining costs:

Water fund grant

4.7 Most important factors affecting the costs

Describe the most determinate factors affecting the costs:

Soil type defines speed of tractor and thus fuel, labour and recurrent maintenance costs.

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
Specify average annual rainfall (if known), in mm:


Specifications/ comments on rainfall:

October-January rainfall is > 75mm per month
March-April rainfall is lowest <70mm per month
Seasons with extreme heavy rainfalls (short and a lot of water are around May)

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%)
  • 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):
  • coarse/ light (sandy)
  • medium (loamy, silty)
Soil texture (> 20 cm below surface):
  • coarse/ light (sandy)
  • medium (loamy, silty)
Topsoil organic matter:
  • medium (1-3%)

5.4 Water availability and quality

Ground water table:

5-50 m

Availability of surface water:


Water quality (untreated):

good drinking water

Water quality refers to:

both ground and surface water

Is water salinity a problem?


Is flooding of the area occurring?


5.5 Biodiversity

Species diversity:
  • medium
Habitat diversity:
  • medium

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:
  • rich
  • very rich
Individuals or groups:
  • individual/ household
Level of mechanization:
  • mechanized/ motorized
  • women
  • men
Age of land users:
  • middle-aged

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, not titled
Land use rights:
  • leased
  • individual
Water use rights:
  • communal (organized)
Are land use rights based on a traditional legal system?


5.9 Access to services and infrastructure

  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
technical assistance:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
employment (e.g. off-farm):
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • 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


crop production

Comments/ specify:

Cover crop provides green manure for soil fertility

crop quality


land management

Comments/ specify:

Less crusting issues with better water retention in soil

Income and costs

expenses on agricultural inputs

Comments/ specify:

Costs increased with undertaking new technology due to additional labour. Aim is to be cost neutral in future but using mechanical rather than chemical methods


Comments/ specify:

Takes more time

Ecological impacts

Water cycle/ runoff

water quantity

Comments/ specify:

Better water retention in soil with cover crops


soil moisture

Comments/ specify:

Better water retention in soil with cover crops

soil cover


soil loss


soil crusting/ sealing


soil compaction


nutrient cycling/ recharge


soil organic matter/ below ground C

Biodiversity: vegetation, animals

Vegetation cover


biomass/ above ground C


beneficial species

Climate and disaster risk reduction

flood impacts


drought impacts


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?
seasonal temperature spring increase moderately
seasonal temperature autumn increase moderately
seasonal rainfall spring decrease moderately
seasonal rainfall autumn decrease moderately

6.4 Cost-benefit analysis

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

slightly negative

Long-term returns:

neutral/ balanced

6.5 Adoption of the Technology

  • 1-10%
Of all those who have adopted the Technology, how many did so spontaneously, i.e. without receiving any material incentives/ payments?
  • 91-100%

6.6 Adaptation

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


6.7 Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities of the Technology

Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the land user’s view
Cover crop /fodder crop termination is without the use of glyphosate or the plough
Water retention capacity of the soil is increased (resilience to drought increased)
Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view
Soil health is increased.
Farmers independence of external inputs is decreased
Acceptance of field fodder and cover crops is increased

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?
costs (fuel/time).
timing and weather have a big impact on success experience

7. References and links

7.1 Methods/ sources of information

  • field visits, field surveys


  • interviews with land users


  • interviews with SLM specialists/ experts


When were the data compiled (in the field)?


7.2 References to available publications

Title, author, year, ISBN:

Regenerative Landwirtschaft, Dietmar Näser, 2020, ISBN 978-8186-0695-4

Available from where? Costs? 34,95€

7.3 Links to relevant online information

Title/ description:

Home Page of a German advisor


Title/ description:

Swiss home page of regenerative agriculture


Title/ description:

Austrian homepage of equipment seller



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