Soil structure comparison

Research publications concerning biodynamics
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Soil structure comparison

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Biodynamic vs. Conventional Farming Effects on Soil Structure Expressed by Simulated Potential Productivity

P. Droogers and J. Bouma

Effects of alternative farming systems on soil structure need to be quantified to judge the sustainability of the systems. This study was conducted to compare two farming systems by converting “static” basic soil properties into a “dynamic” assessment using simulation modeling. Increasingly popular biodynamic farming systems use no commercial fertilizers and pesticides but apply organic manure and compost. Soil conditions on four fields on two farms where biodynamic and conventional soil management had been practiced for about 70 yr were investigated with morphological and physical methods. Soils (Loamy, mixed, mesic Typic Fluvaquents) were pedologically identical. Four procedures were used to express differences in soil structure as a function of different management: (i) morphological description; (ii) measurement of basic and static soil parameters such as bulk density, organic matter, and porosity; (iii) measurement of soil hydraulic characteristics; and (iv) determination of simulated water-limited yields. The latter procedure provides a criterion that is quantitative, is directly related to a practical aspect of soil behavior, and reflects the highly nonlinear soil-water processes. The WAVE simulation model was used to predict water-limited potato (Solanum tuberosum L.) yields with climatic data of 30 yr. Basic static soil parameters were not significantly different but simulated yields were significantly different and were 10 200 and 10 300 vs. 9400 and 9700 kg dry matter tuber yield ha−1 yr−1 for the biodynamic and the conventional fields, respectively. Simulation modeling of crop yields thus provides a relevant expression for the production potential of the two different farming systems.