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General information about Apelsvoll cropping system experiment
The long-term arable cropping system was established in 1988/1989 on Apelsvoll farm of the Norwegian Institute for Agricultural and Environmental Research (Bioforsk), Arable Crops Division, in Southeast Norway (60°42’N, 10°51’E, altitude 250 m).

                                                                  

The climate of the region is humid continental with a mean (1961-1990) annual temperature of 3.6 °C, with 12.0 °C in the growing season (May-September), and a mean annual precipitation of 600 mm.

The experimental site comprises six cropping systems, each with two replicates, a total of 12 blocks (30 x 60 m), separated by 7.5 m wide grass border zones. Each block is separately drained with PVC pipes at a depth of 1 m with 7.5 m spacing. Surface runoff is collected at the lower end of each block and led to a sedimentation tank. Drainage water and surface runoff from the sedimentation tank is transported in sealed plastic pipes to measuring stations equipped for discharge measurements by tipping buckets and volume proportional sampling.

The aim of the Apelsvoll Cropping System Experiment is to study nutrient and pesticide leaching as well as yields, yield quality and economy at the cropping system level, and the systems should be improved with regard to environmental impacts.

The soil

The major soil groups are classified as Gleyed Melanic Brunisol and Orthic Humic Gleysol (CSSC, 1998). Topsoil texture is morainic loam (47 ±4 % sand, 35 ± 2 % silt, 18 ± 2 % clay), with some gravel and frequent stones, containing about 5 % organic matter in the topsoil.

The period before experimental period

The experimental area was forested until 1935, when the trees were cut and the area was used as pasture land. From 1975 the field was cropped with a 6-year rotation including barley/oats, potatoes/root crops, barley and 3-year ley. An average of 10 tonnes slurry/ha/year was applied and regular amounts of mineral fertilizer. In 1988 the whole area was systematically drained. The 1989 season was used for a “uniformity” trial with barley and undersown grass over the whole area except for the model farms under conversion to ecological farming, where a green manure crop was grown. The experiment with model farms was established in 1990.

The period 1990-1993

There were six cropping systems with two replicates.  Each system had eight rotation plots. All crops in a particular rotation were present each year.

The following types of farming were defined for the first experimental period.

1. Conventional arable cash crop production without farmyard manure

Application of mineral fertilizer and pesticides according to current recommendations by the extension services. Autumn ploughing on all plots

Crop rotation: Early potato, winter wheat, oats, barley, potato, spring wheat, oats, barley

2. Integrated arable cash crop production without farmyard manure

Reduced inputs of mineral fertilizer, ploughless soil tillage (i.e. spring harrowing) and the use of pesticides strictly according to observed requirements

Crop rotation: Early potato, winter wheat, oats, barley, potato, spring wheat, oats, barley

3. Ecological (i.e. organic) arable cash crop production with some farmyard manure

Management according to the principles for ecological farming, where the nutrient supply is based on slurry from a small herd of beef cows

Crop rotation: barley, clover grass, spring wheat, potato, barley, clover grass, winter wheat, oats

4. Conventional forage crop production with farmyard manure

Amount of farmyard manure in accordance with official legislation, application of slurry in the autumn followed by autumn ploughing, amounts of fertilizer and pesticide management according to current recommendations by extension services

Crop rotation: barley, 1st year ley, 2nd year ley, 3rd year ley, fodder-beet, spring wheat, oats, green fodder

5. Integrated forage crop production with farmyard manure

Reduced inputs of farmyard manure and mineral fertilizer, application of all slurry at the start of or during the growing season, spring ploughing, and the use of pesticide strictly according to observed requirements

Crop rotation: barley, 1st year ley, 2nd year ley, 3rd year ley, fodder-beet, spring wheat, oats, green fodder

6. Ecological forage crop production with farmyard manure

Management according to the principles for ecological farming.

Crop rotation: barley, 1st year ley, 2nd year ley, 3rd year ley, fodder-beet, green fodder, spring wheat, oats and peas.

 

1994

In 1994 some minor adjustments were made to the experimental design:

All the slurry was spread in the spring or during the growing season (not in autumn). Early potatoes were exchanged with early barley in the rotations of system 1 and 2. Fodder-beet was exchanged with swedes in all forage systems (4, 5, 6). Autumn ploughing was altered to spring ploughing in the conventional systems (1 and 4). There were also some adjustments of the amounts of fertilizer.

 

The period 2000-2010

Some major adjustments were made to the experimental design in 2000. The number of rotation plots was reduced from eight to four by merging pairs of neighbouring plots, thus reducing the rotation length form 8 to 4 years. Still each crop was present every year. A new organic mixed dairy system was introduced instead for the integrated mixed dairy system, and some smaller changes were undertaken in the management of the other systems. The reason for making the changes was:

1. to emulate the typical crop rotations used in practice

2. to increase the focus on organic cropping

3. to meet the demand for a reference system which is kept unchanged

 

CA1. Conventional arable cropping, reference

The system is managed as was common for the region in 1985 (tillage and fertilization as 1985). For practical reasons are present-day inputs of seeds and chemical plant protection used. The year 1985 was selected since the North-Sea Agreement (1987) used this year as the base for its planned 50 % reduction in nutrient leaching to the North Sea within a 10-year period. Before this date, less attention was paid to non-point source losses of nutrients attributed to farming activities. This cropping system is used as a reference.

Crop rotation: potatoes, spring wheat, oats, barley

 

CA2. Conventional arable cropping, optimized

All currently available knowledge is used in order to minimize the ratio of N lost by leaching and runoff to production. The optimization involves the use of catch crops, split application of fertilizer and reduced tillage.

Crop rotation: potatoes, spring wheat + catch crop, oats + catch crop, barley + catch crop

OA. Organic arable cropping

The system is organic arable cropping without cattle slurry. 25 % of the area is used for green manure (grass-clover ley).

Crop rotation: barley with undersown grass-clover mixture, grass-clover as green manure (mulched 3-4 times per season), spring wheat + catch crop, oats + peas

CM. Conventional mixed dairy farming.

The system is optimized similarly to CA2, but with spring ploughing. 50 % of the area is grass-clover ley. The amounts of slurry used were calculated from the theoretical numbed of cows which each farming system could sustain. It was assumed that purchased cereal-based feed concentrate corresponded to 25 % of the total fodder units available.

Crop rotation: barley with undersown grass-clover ley, 1st ley year, 2nd ley year, spring wheat + catch crop

OM1. Organic mixed dairy farming1

The organic mixed dairy farming system has 50 % of the area as grass-clover ley. The system was assumed to be completely self-sufficient with fodder, and the use of slurry is calculated theoretically as in system CM.

Crop rotation: barley with undersown grass-clover ley, 1st ley year, 2nd ley year, spring wheat + catch crop

OM2. Organic mixed dairy farming2

The system has 75 % of the area as grass-clover ley. The system was assumed to be completely self-sufficient with fodder, and the use of slurry is calculated theoretically as in system CM.

Crop rotation: spring barley with undersown grass-clover ley, 1st ley year, 2nd ley year, 3rd ley year

The period 2011 -

In 2011 some minor adjustments were made to the experimental design:

CA1. Conventional arable cropping, reference

No changes

CA2. Conventional arable cropping, optimized

Split application of fertilizer to barley, oats and potatoes (not only to wheat)

OA. Organic arable cropping

The first two cuts of the grass-clover ley harvested and assumed sold as fodder, whereas the last cut mulched in order to reduce weeds. The mixture of peas and oats exchanged with oats in monoculture, due to disease problems in the peas, most likely resulting from a too frequent pea cropping. Digested biogas residues added to all cereal rotations in spring, in amounts corresponding to 80 kg N/ha. Application of the residues performed using direct ground injection (DGI, as used for slurry application in the mixed dairy systems).

CM. Conventional mixed dairy farming

The proportion of feed concentrates to the total fodder units enhanced to 35 %. The number of harvests of the grass-clover leys increased from two to three times per season. Assumed milk production set to 7000 kg milk cow-1 yr-1

OM1. Organic mixed dairy farming1

The proportion of feed concentrates to the total fodder units enhanced to 30 %. The number of harvests of the grass-clover leys increased from two to three times per season. The last cut of the second ley year is mulched in order to reduce weeds. Assumed milk production set to 6300 kg milk cow-1 yr-1

OM2. Organic mixed dairy farming2           

All barley produced assumed used as feed concentrates. The number of harvests of the grass-clover leys increased from two to three times per season. The last cut of the third ley year is mulched in order to reduce weeds. Assumed milk production set to 5000 kg milk cow-1 yr-1

 

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