Document details for 'Plant responses to an integrated cropping system designed to maintain yield whilst enhancing soil properties and biodiversity'

Authors Hawes, C., Alexander, C.J., Begg, G.S., Iannetta, P.P.M., Karley, A., Squire, G. and Young, M.
Publication details Agronomy 8(10), 229. MDPI (Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute), Basel, Switzerland.
Publisher details MDPI (Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute), Basel, Switzerland
Keywords integrated farm management, weed biodiversity, arable ecology, system trade-offs, long-term experimental platform
Abstract The intensification of arable production since the 1950s has resulted in increases in yield but only at significant cost to the environment in terms of pollution, soil degradation and loss of biodiversity - trends that have raised serious concerns about long-term consequences for the sustainability of food production systems. While a range of policies and practices have been put in place in an attempt to mitigate these negative effects, their efficacy has not been properly quantified. Whole-system effects of management change are rarely studied and so trade-offs and conflicts between different components of the agricultural system are poorly understood. A long term field platform was therefore established in which conventional arable management is compared with an integrated cropping system over multiple six year rotations. Over the first rotation, the integrated system had a positive effect on soil properties and weed densities, but a minimal impact on crop yield relative to standard commercial practice. Beneficial broad leaved weeds were significantly more abundant in the integrated management system across all crops whereas grass weeds showed no overall significant response. Only one of the six crops had significantly lower yields under integrated management; crop yield was maintained for the remaining five, suggesting a negligible impact on financial margins. Soil carbon, pH and soil concentrations of the main plant growth-limiting macronutrients were also enhanced under the integrated management system.
Last updated 2018-11-02
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