Reducing tillage intensity

Reduced tillage intensity with limited use of inversion tillage shows benefits for soil biota.  However, these seem to be direct effects only for soil macrofauna; more generally the impacts are mediated through increases in the amount or changes to the quality of OM inputs or changes in plant diversity. 

Consider the following recommended practices

  • Use minimum intensity tillage – only cultivate to the depth and with the energy you need to achieve the result required for your seedbeds

More work is needed to assess the impacts of changes in tillage in grassland systems – such as the use of aeration within the grassland systems. Where such tillage approaches are adopted together with changes to management of organic inputs, e.g. by application of composted manures immediately following an aeration pass, it seems likely that additional benefits will accrue for both soil organisms and overall soil health.

In a Natural England project (2011-12) expert judgement on the impacts of the practices was linked with farmer feedback on their likely uptake and effectiveness. A summary of the recommended practices for increasing plant diversity on-farm for grassland systems can be downloaded hereStockdale, E.A. & Watson, C.A. 2012. Managing soil biota to deliver ecosystem services.  Natural England Commissioned Report, No. 100.

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