Applying scientific findings to practice is a complex business. Often, the conclusions drawn under the controlled conditions predominating in exact experiments cannot easily be applied to commercial farming. Moreover, studies conducted under practical conditions are always dependent upon a great many uncontrollable factors, with the result that the importance of individual factors is difficult to determine. In this context, Agroscope Reckenholz- Tänikon Research Station ART's Organic Arable Farming Group has set up a network for practical farming research. This farm network is intended to foster closer cooperation between the Research Station and the participating commercial farms.
"What are the factors influencing arable-crop yields under real-life organic conditions?" is the main question addressed in this project, which investigates the effect of organic management as a function of its duration on arable-crop yields, weed suppression and weed diversity, as well as on the occurrence and variety of mycorrhizal fungi. These fungi form a symbiosis with many arable crops, providing the plants with essential nutrients. In addition to this, important knowledge is gained about actual management approaches (crop rotation, tillage, fertilisation, weed control and plant protection) in organic arable farming.
All in all, 34 farms are taking part in the study: 25 organic farms, which converted from between one and 32 years ago to organic management according to Bio-Suisse guidelines, and nine PEP (Proof of Ecological Performance) farms. Information is obtained directly from the farms themselves by means of questionnaires and field surveys, which are then scientifically analysed.