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TitleProductivity, quality and sustainability of winter wheat under long-term conventional and organic management in Switzerland
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsMayer, J, Gunst, L, Mader, P, Samson, M-F, Carcea, M, Valentina, N, Thomsen, IK, Dubois, D
JournalEuropean Journal of Agronomy
Start Page27
Date PublishedApril 2015
KeywordsBaking quality, Long-term sustainability, Nitrogen use efficiency, wheat, Yield components

Long-term sustainability and high resource use efficiency are major goals for high quality baking wheat production throughout the world. Present strategies are low input systems such as organic agriculture or improved conventional systems (integrated). The fertilisation level and strategy, crop protection as well as preceding crop effects may modulate system performance with respect to wheat grain yield, quality and environmental performance of the systems.

Our aim was to evaluate data of winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) performance from the DOK long-term systems experiment in Switzerland comparing two mixed organic (biodynamic and bioorganic: BIODYN and BIOORG) and a mixed conventional cropping system (CONFYM) using mineral fertilisers and farmyard manure at two fertilisation intensities (level 1: 50% of standard fertilisation, level 2: standard fertilisation) since 1978. A conventional system was fertilised exclusively minerally at level 2 (CONMIN) and a control remained unfertilised (NOFERT). We compared crop yields, baking quality parameters, the nitrogen use efficiency and the effect of maize and potatoes as preceding crops obtained between 2003 and 2010 along with long-term soil sustainability parameters.

The mean grain yields across both fertiliser levels of the organic cropping systems (BIODYN and BIOORG) were 64% of CONFYM, whereas crude protein contents were 79% of CONFYM at fertilisation level 2 and achieved 90% at level 1. The main driving factor of lower yields was a reduction of the numbers of ears per m2 and the thousand kernel weight. The apparent nitrogen use efficiency decreased with increasing N fertilisation. Doubling the organic fertilisation in the organic systems only slightly improved wheat grain yields but was not able to improve grain baking quality, due to low mineral N additions via slurry and farmyard manure. In contrast the effects of the preceding crop potatoes in comparison with preceding silage maize outperformed the organic fertilisation effects, resulting in 33% higher yields and 11% higher crude protein contents. The yield components recorded in the case of preceding potatoes demonstrated a more synchronised nutrient supply throughout the wheat development. Over all low input systems and both fertilisation levels in the conventional mixed farm system at half standard fertilisation (level 1) performed best with distinctly higher grain yields and crude protein contents than in the organic systems with standard fertilisation. However, all systems, organic and conventional, with the low or zero organic fertiliser inputs performed poorly considering the long-term soil quality parameters, indicating a degradation of soil quality. The DOK long-term experiment allows an integrated view on the performance of baking wheat production and long-term sustainability. The results emphasise the importance of a sufficient supply of soils with organic fertilisers as well as the need to improve the availability of organic nitrogen and synchrony between nutrient supply and demand in organic baking wheat production, beside the selection of a suitable preceding crop

Refereed DesignationRefereed