Only 34% of all German farms apply reduced tillage (RT), while approximately 1% of the arable land is under no-tillage (NT). Statistics for organic farming are not available, but the percentages are probably even lower. The development of German organic RT and NT has been strongly driven by pioneer farmers for 40 years, and supported by field trials since the 1990s. The main motive for conversion to RT is increased soil quality, followed by reduced labor costs. NT combined with high-residue cover crops plays only a very small role. Rather, German organic farmers resort to shallow ploughing, a reduced number of ploughing operations in the rotation and/or substitution of the ploughing with non-inversion tillage. In field trials, winter wheat (Triticum aestivum
L.) yields were reduced up to 67% by using RT methods compared to inversion tillage treatments due to reduced mineralization and increased weed pressure, both of which are major obstacles that impede the wider adoption of RT and NT by German organic farmers. Improvement of NT and RT (rotations, implements, timing) in organic farming is a task of both agricultural practice and science. A number of conventional farmers who have recently converted to organic farming are already familiar with RT. These farmers will act as a thriving factor to implement their experience after conversion and contribute to further innovations of RT in organic farming.
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