Because of the complexity of farming systems, the combined effects of farm management practices on nitrogen availability, nitrogen uptake by the crop and crop performance are not well understood. To evaluate the effects of the temporal and spatial variability of management practices, we used data from seventeen farms and projections to latent structures analysis (PLS) to examine the contribution of 11 farm characteristics and 18 field management practices on barley performance during the period 2009â€“2012. Farm types were mixed (croplivestock) and arable and were categorized as old organic, young organic or conventional farms. The barley performance indicators included nitrogen concentrations in biomass (in grain and whole biomass) and dry matter at two growing stages. Fourteen out of 29 farm characteristics and field management practices analysed best explained the variation of the barley performance indicators, at the level of 56%, while model cross-validation revealed a goodness of prediction of 31%. Greater crop diversification on farm, e.g., a high proportion of rotational leys and pasture, which was mostly observed among old organic farms, positively affected grain nitrogen concentration. The highest average grain nitrogen concentration was found in old organic farms (2.3% vs. 1.7 and 1.4% for conventional and young organic farms, respectively). The total nitrogen translocated in grain was highest among conventional farms (80 kg haâˆ’1 vs. 33 and 39 kg haâˆ’1 for young and old organic farms, respectively). The use of mineral fertilizers and pesticides increased biomass leading to significant differences in average grain yield which became more than double for conventional farms (477 Â± 24 g mâˆ’2) compared to organic farms (223 Â± 37 and 196 Â± 32 g mâˆ’2 for young and old organic farms, respectively). In addition to the importance of weed control, management of crop residues and the organic fertilizer application methods in the current and three previous years, were identified as important factors affecting the barley performance indicators that need closer investigation. With the PLS approach, we were able to highlight the management practices most relevant to barley performance in different farm types. The use of mineral fertilizers and pesticides on conventional farms was related to high cereal crop biomass. Organic management practices in old organic farms increased barley N concentration but there is a need for improved management practices to increase biomass production and grain yield. Weed control, inclusion of more leys in rotation and organic fertilizer application techniques are some of the examples of management practices to be improved for higher N concentrations and biomass yields on organic farms.
- Barley performance indicators
- Farm type
- Management practices
- Nitrogen supply
- Projection on latent structures (PLS)