Predicting the effect of rotation design on N, P, K balances on organic farms using the NDICEA model

LG Smith, D Tarsitano, CFE Topp, SK Jones, CL Gerrard, BD Pearce, AG Williams, CA Watson

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Abstract

The dynamic model Nitrogen Dynamics in Crop rotations in Ecological Agriculture (NDICEA) was used to assess the nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) balance of long-term organic cropping trials and typical organic crop rotations on a range of soil types and rainfall zones in the UK. The measurements of soil N taken at each of the organic trial sites were also used to assess the performance of NDICEA. The modeled outputs compared well to recorded soil N levels, with relatively small error margins. NDICEA therefore seems to be a useful tool for UK organic farmers. The modeling of typical organic rotations has shown that positive N balances can be achieved, although negative N balances can occur under high rainfall conditions and on lighter soil types as a result of leaching. The analysis and modeling also showed that some organic cropping systems rely on imported sources of P and K to maintain an adequate balance and large deficits of both nutrients are apparent in stockless systems. Although the K deficits could be addressed through the buffering capacity of minerals, the amount available for crop uptake will depend on the type and amount of minerals present, current cropping and fertilization practices and the climatic environment. A P deficit represents a more fundamental problem for the maintenance of crop yields and the organic sector currently relies on mined sources of P which represents a fundamental conflict with the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements organic principles.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)471 - 484
Number of pages14
JournalRenewable Agriculture and Food Systems
Volume31
DOIs
Publication statusPrint publication - 2015

Bibliographical note

1023396

Keywords

  • Crop rotation
  • Nutrients
  • Organic farming
  • Sustainability

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