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Our two PhD students Melanie Karlsson (CEC) and Rafaelle Reumaux (SLU) are investigating factors that affect the possibility of expanding organic crop production in Sweden.

 

Here, Melanie and Rafaelle summarise their ongoing research.

Field studies

In the spring and summer of 2020 we carried out observations on farms in Västergötland, Skåne and Halland to identify constraints on organic cereal yields. We observed spring barley and winter wheat crops throughout the growing season and measured different indicators of their development including nutrient uptake, and also assessed different aspects of the yield. We measured weed, pest and disease pressure in each field, in addition to the soil and landscape conditions and the different management practiced by the farmers, such as weed treatment strategy, fertilization and cultivar choice.

The aim with the study is not only to see what is affecting the yields, but try to determine which factors are most important, and under which conditions. We will also learn about the variation in organic farming in the plains to better understand the system and possibilities for improvements.

Thank you to the farmers for collaborating with us!

Crop rotation study

The order in which crops are grown in the same area across the growing seasons is essential in organic farm management. This practice of crop rotation can have beneficial effects on soil health, nutrient availability for the crops, and can contribute to reducing weed, pest and disease pressure. Although research has recently focused on describing differences in crop sequence patterns in field experiments, little is known about the real patterns occurring in farms.

Thanks to the Land Parcel Identification System, we are able to gain insight into crop rotations at farm-level over a large national scale. With this database, we are investigating the structural differences in crop rotations among different farming systems in different regions of Sweden. We are also interested in knowing more about which type of farms are driving specific crop rotations in these areas. In addition, by studying the patterns in preceding crop type, we aim to better understand the role of the position of the crop in the rotation.

Farmer questionnaire

To get an overview of the organic and conventional farming systems and yields, we carried out a large-scale questionnaire in the major plain regions of Sweden, during spring and summer of 2020. We received answers about yields of their most common crops, their general management including tilling, fertilization and preceding crop choice, as well as weed and pest control. This data will be combined with additional information about soil type and the surrounding landscape and thus help us understand what characterizes organic and conventional farming systems in these regions, and how they differ.

We will investigate the yield differences between and within organic and conventional farming, taking into account their different management and conditions, and focus on understanding which factors are the most important determinants of yield.

 

Contact

If you want to know more about the project and results so far you can reach Melanie and Rafaelle via e-mail:

Melanie Karlsson,
melanie [dot] karlsson [at] cec [dot] lu [dot] se

Rafaelle Reumaux,
rafaelle [dot] reumaux [at] slu [dot] se.