Together towards a sustainable agriculture
Conventional and organic farming have been to opposites for a long time. We think this is wrong, as in Sweden in general, we produce food with very little environmental impact regardless of cultivation method.
We hope that different cultivation approaches can benefit from and learn from each other, thus creating a golden middle ground – sustainable agriculture. We at Lyckegård believe that this is achieved with reduced use of chemical spraying agents, by keeping the soil overgrown for much of the year, healthy crop rotations and effective mechanical methods.
Organic production does not use any mineral fertilizers for the supply of nutrients to the crop, or any chemical agents for the control of weeds and pests. Instead, organic fertilizers are used, such as manure from animal production, but also residues from the food industry as well as green manure.
For the control of, for example, weeds and pests, preventive methods are used and mechanical methods and grassland are permanent features of the crop rotation. This has several positive environmental effects such as minimized risk of spreading environmental toxins and positive effects on biodiversity. But good things come with some disadvantages, as organic cropping systems usually gives a lower yield. Read more about organic production on the European Comission´s homepage.
The most common farming method today is called conventional cultivation. This means that mineral fertilizers for the supply of nutrients and chemical pesticides against insects, diseases and weeds can be used within the framework of the regulations that exist in Sweden. Earlier, conventional cultivation has not taken as much consideration to crop rotations that nourish the soil or counteract crop rotation diseases.
However, today’s conventional cultivation has undergone major changes in recent years and is increasingly focusing on environmental measures that allow the use of chemical pesticides to be reduced and fertilization to become more precise in order to reduce nutrient leakage. Some examples are sensors for precision fertilizing and spraying and different types of certifications for measures taken to protect soil and water.
Technology drives development
Something that also drives the positive environmental development in agriculture is the plethora of technical solutions for, for example, precision fertilization, such as YARA N-Sensor, and spraying technology such as drift-reducing equipment on the sprayer. Swedish agriculture is strictly regulated and is regularly checked in terms of how and when different measures may be taken. More recently, conventional cultivation has approached the organic and, for example, brought in mechanical weed control in the form of, for example, row chopping to reduce the use of spraying agents.
The Conservation Agriculture (CA) cultivation system has taken its place in Sweden in recent years and is based on three principles.
- Minimum processing of the soil i.e. no tillage – no mechanical tillage of the soil. Instead, direct sowing is applied and processing takes place only with the help of the roots of plants and worms that get free rampage in the undisturbed soil environment.
- Green fields as much of the year as possible. At least 30% of the area shall be covered with plant residues or cover crops all year round. This can reduce the risk of erosion, improve soil structure, compete against weeds and diseases, fix nitrogen from the air, absorb residual nutrients into the soil for reduced leakage, and finally fixate carbon in the ground. A study published in 2021shows that it is better from both a point of yield and the earth’s biodiversity to have the soil overgrown for a larger part of the year compared to having many different crops in their crop rotation.
- Species diversification and focus on a healthy crop rotation. Here, for example, different cover crops can be used, in mixture or only one species, to function as food for the soil’s microorganisms.
Finish the cover crop
In CA, a lot of cover crops are grown that are often chemically killed when it is time to establish the next crop. You can also use a crop roller or crimper roller, a technique that has been used for a long time in, for example, North America. We think this is a very interesting method, which can be combined with minimized processing and have therefore chosen to add the kniferoller Crimperroller in our range.
Is it possible to combine organic with CA?
In organic farming, a lot of soil managemtn is done to overcome weeds since chemical agents must not be used. This increases diesel consumption but also negatively affects soil micro life. Therefore, it is difficult to combine organic farming with reduced processing and even less with CA as it is especially difficult to fight perennial weeds completely without deeper processing. On the other hand, it is possible to take advantage of the principles of CA also in organic farming, for example through the use of cover crops.
Soil cultivation - a lot or a little?
Some people does not want or are unable to practice Conservation Agriculture, but a lot of farmers today use more or less reduced tillage in comparison to a plowed system. We divide the various reduced systems into ultra-shallow, shallow and deep reduced processing.
Ultra shallow tillage:
Cultivation of the soil surface 2-3 cm is a good way to, for example, create a false seed bed for weed plants to germinate in. Since minimal soil is moved, shallow tillage is economical as fuel consumption is very low. In this way, improving field hygiene also helps to reduce the use of chemical pesticides in the long run.
An example of tools for ultra shallow cultivation is a run with Väderstad Carrier equipped with Cross cutter disc or shallow processing with disch rollers such as Köckerling Rebell with 17 degree slope on their discs. To avoid soil sompaction, which can occur when driving with discs, you can instead use Köckerling Allrounder Classic or Flatline with goose feet for one hundred percent cut-off.
Shallow reduced tillage:
For a slightly deeper, but still very shallow tillage, different types of cutting disc tools are used, especially on slightly stiffer soils. However, great demands are placed on how the straw is treated during harvesting as there are large amounts of plants to be mixed into a small layer of soil if the straw has not been removed. In these conditions, the new revolutionary Köckerling Allrounder Flatline, a long and open cultivator, is used to avoid stocking. In addition, a crop roller, Crimperroller, can be used as a tool to further decompose the plant biomass to be processed
Deep reduced tillage:
A slightly deeper reduced tillage is used on compact soils and where there is a larger amount of plant residues to mix in. Here, a combined cultivator is often used, such as Topdown or a cultivator such as Köckerling Quadro or Vector. Even Kvickfinn can be used for more shallow to a bit deeper tillage.