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Agronomy 2018, 8(10), 229; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy8100229

Plant Responses to an Integrated Cropping System Designed to Maintain Yield Whilst Enhancing Soil Properties and Biodiversity

1
James Hutton Institute, Invergowrie, Dundee DD2 5DA, Scotland, UK
2
Biomathematics and Statistics Scotland, Invergowrie, Dundee DD2 5DA, Scotland, UK
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 20 September 2018 / Revised: 6 October 2018 / Accepted: 9 October 2018 / Published: 17 October 2018
(This article belongs to the Section Farming Sustainability)
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Abstract

The intensification of arable production since the 1950s has resulted in increases in yield but only at significant cost to the environment, raising 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 to mitigate negative effects in terms of pollution, soil degradation and loss of biodiversity, 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 was compared with a low-input, integrated cropping system designed with the goal to maintain yields whilst enhancing biodiversity and minimizing environmental impact. Over the first rotation, only winter wheat yielded less under integrated management; yield was maintained for the remaining five crops (spring and winter barley, winter oilseed rape, potato and field beans), suggesting a negligible impact on economic returns. Beneficial broad-leaved weeds were significantly more abundant in the integrated management system across all crops whereas grass weeds showed no overall response to treatment. Soil carbon, pH and soil concentrations of the main plant growth-limiting macronutrients were enhanced under the integrated management system. The integrated system was therefore successful in meeting the goals to enhance biodiversity and reduce environmental impact without jeopardizing crop yields. View Full-Text
Keywords: integrated farm management; weed biodiversity; system trade-offs; long-term platform integrated farm management; weed biodiversity; system trade-offs; long-term platform
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Hawes, C.; Alexander, C.J.; Begg, G.S.; Iannetta, P.P.M.; Karley, A.J.; Squire, G.R.; Young, M. Plant Responses to an Integrated Cropping System Designed to Maintain Yield Whilst Enhancing Soil Properties and Biodiversity. Agronomy 2018, 8, 229.

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