Farming System and Tillage Experiment – FAST Going Full Speed Ahead

Aerial Photo Farming System and Tillage Experiment

Productivity and ecosystem services of organic and conventional farming, combined with tillage of varying intensity and intercropping, are the focus of the FAST trial. Here, farming systems and management practices are evaluated with particular reference to susceptibility to erosion, nutrient cycling, carbon sequestration, soil quality, biodiversity, and climate impact and resilience.

Trial Design

Set up in 2009 in Rümlang (Altwi) on a Calcaric Cambisol, the trial comrpises four treatments: conventional arable farming with and without tillage (no-till) and organic farming with ploughing and reduced tillage (shallow and non-turning < 10cm). In the conventional treatments, mineral fertilisers and synthetic plant-protection products are applied, whilst only organic fertilisers in the form of cattle slurry are used in the organic treatments. In all four treatments, the effect of intercropping (fallow, legumes, a mixture of legumes and non-legumes) is studied on subplots. The six-year crop rotation consists of winter wheat – grain maize – grain legumes (faba beans, peas) – winter wheat – two years of temporary ley. Each treatment is spatially replicated four times. In addition, the entire trial was set up as a second spatial repetition, shifted by one year (FAST I and FAST II).


Physical (density, texture, pore volume), chemical (carbon, nitrogen, available nutrients, nitrous oxide emissions, nitrogen leaching) and biological (earthworms, mycorrhiza, microbial diversity and biomass) soil parameters are recorded at regular intervals. Yields and nutrient content of main and by-products, weeds, and nitrogen input by the catch crops are also investigated annually.
As an experimental platform, the FAST trial has already made numerous collaborations possible and permits a comprehensive evaluation of the multi-functionality of the systems investigated. Although both conventional farming and tillage produce higher yields than organic farming and soil-conserving management practices, organic and soil-conserving treatments demonstrate ecological advantages, as they have a positive effect on soil quality and are characterised by greater soil protection and reduced environmental impacts.


Key data

Topic: Cultivation systems, tillage, catch crops

Site: Rümlang Altwi

Location: 47.438889, 8.527778;
485 m. a.s.l.

Start year: 2009

Design: split-plot, 2 x 4 replications

Soil type (WRB): calcaric Cambisol

Soil texture: Sandy loam (23% clay, 34% silt, 43% sand, 1.4% org. C)

Precipitation: 1050 mm

Temperature: 9.4 °C

Further Information

Last modification 26.04.2021

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