Defra - Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Science Search

Science and Research Projects

Return to Science Search homepage   Return to Project List

The effect of ploughing after non-inversion tillage in the LIFE project - AR0907

Over the past 12 years the LIFE experiment has compared integrated arable cropping (IFS) with conventional practice (SFP). This has been done initially over a 5 year rotation (Phase I) followed by a 7 year rotation (Phase II) which ended at harvest 2001. Each phase of the rotations had at least one 1ha. plot (usually 2) in each year of the rotation.

The SFP plots were ploughed annually and received inputs (chemical) according to codes of good agricultural practice as would be found on a high input , intensively managed arable farm; in contrast the IFS plots had crops established annually by non-inversion of the soil and received inputs according to realistic crops needs and disease/pest thresholds. The success of the IFS approach is well documented and the results from the LIFE experiment form the basis of IACPA publications/workshops and the recently published DEFRA/HGCA “Arable cropping and the environment – a guide”

The robustness of the IFS approach is well proven, non ploughing has produced many advantages in both agronomic and environmental terms, however anecdotal evidence suggests that most of these benefits are rapidly lost as soon as the land is ploughed again. The objective of this proposal is to take advantage of the unique LIFE experiment plots (the only remaining long-term and fully recorded IFS site in the UK) to document and quantify the changes that may take place to the soil and crops when long-term non-inverted plots are ploughed.
The overall aim is to identify the changes that take place to the soil structure/agregation when ploughing takes place, to measure the effect on diffent crops in the rotation and on key indicater species of soil fauna and flora. To indentify best practices to minimise the negative effects when ploughing is a necessity for the establishment of certain crops.

1. Soil Management:;
To determine comparative changes of soil structure and organic matter turnover, both in the soil profile and in particular in the top horison (0-10cm)
To measure the comparative soil moisture of the differing regimes at the time of crop establishment and the diffuse pollution occuring in drainage water during the winter.
2. Crop Management:
To determine the effect of sowing date (of different crops in the rotation) and consequent crop ground cover on soil condition and crop performance under the contrasting regimes of continuous non-inversion and a single inversion.
To evaluate changes in occurance/abundance of problematic weeds.

3. Environmental Indicators:
To determine population changes of an indicator species (earthworms).
Project Documents
• Final Report : The Effect of Ploughing After Non-Inversion Tillage in the LIFE Project   (126k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2002

To: 2003

Cost: £75,000
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Rothamsted Research (BBSRC)
Arable Farming              
Crop Improvement              
Peer Review              
Sustainable Production              
Fields of Study
Arable Crops