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Protecting Soil Through Conservation Agriculture, in Europe; Soil and Water & ProTerra Projects

Protecting Soil Through Conservation Agriculture, in Europe; Soil and Water & ProTerra Projects

SOWAP | Conservation Agriculture and Environment | Conditions for Conservation Agriculture  


Which land is suitable for Conservation Agriculture?

Prof Gottlieb Basch Vice-President of the European Conservation Agriculture Federation (ECAF) and researcher at the University of Evora in Portugal suggests that

 “there is no recipe on whether Conservation Agriculture can be successful or not. We have to adapt our (CA) farming system to the existing conditions. Nonetheless some conditions are limiting and make things more difficult, whilst others nearly beg for being cultivated under no-till.”

Prof Basch suggests that the best way to start with Conservation Agriculture is to obtain advice through pioneer farmers and national farmer organisations. ECAF offers a list of national associations within and external to Europe (From the ECAF home page select ‘National Associations’ for associations in Europe and select ‘Links’ for non-European associations) Advice and networks from the FAO might also be helpful.

The greatest opportunities for Conservation Agriculture ... 

Soil erosion after heavy rainfall (18 Kb JPEG)
Soil erosion after heavy rainfall

are in reducing soil erosion, and its associated problems. The greatest cause of soil erosion is from heavy rain falling on sloping cultivated land. The greatest threat to the successful implementation of conservation agriculture is compaction; compaction is more likely to occur on heavier soils in wetter climates. A second major cause of soil erosion is from wind. Windbowl or dustbowl conditions are most likely to occur in dry conditions on cultivated and light soils.

This means that decisions as to whether land is suitable for Conservation Agriculture are made on an almost field by field basis where the variables include:

  • the lie of the land (topography)
  • soil type,
  • climate, especially rainfall and
  • soil health; heavily influenced by
    • soil management
    • tillage and
    • cropping patterns

How much of Europe is suitable for Conservation Agriculture?

One of the principles of Conservation Agriculture is Conservation Tillage. Conservation Tillage encompasses a range of tillage techniques one of which is ‘no till’. Since no-till is suitable for at least a third of the arable land area of the ten European countries listed in the table below, an even greater land area may be suitable for Conservation Agriculture.

Country 

Arable land suitable for no till %

Switzerland

49.1

Spain 

45.5

Portugal

45.0

Denmark 

44.0

Germany

37.1

Greece

37.0

France

31.8

Netherlands 

26.3

Italy

22.5

UK

17.8

Average

34.1

Source:

FAO quoted in SOWAP booklet

 

References and Bibliography

Holland, J. M. (2004). The environmental consequences of adopting conservation tilage in Europe: reviewing the evidence. Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment, 103(1), 1-25. (261.3 Kb pdf file)

Jones, C. A., Basch, G., Bayliss, A. D., Bazzoni, D., Biggs, J., Bradbury, R. B., et al. (2006). Conservation Agriculture in Europe: An approach to sustainable crop production by protecting soil and water? Jeallott's Hill, Bracknell RG42 6EY  UK: SOWAP. (4,552 Kb pdf file).

Kertesz, A. (2004, 25-29 May). Conventional and conservation tillage from pedological and ecological aspects; the SOWAP project. Paper presented at the 4th International Congress of the European Society for Soil Conservation; "Soil conservation in changing Europe", Budapest, Hungary. (46 Kb pdf file)

 


 
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