Lo-till and organic farming

16 July 2001

Lo-till and organic farming

Can lo-till be integrated with organic farming?

THERE are considerable difficulties for lo-till and organics.

The principle reason is that deep cultivations are needed for weed control since established weeds simply re-root if only subjected to surface cultivations.

Furthermore, fertility is derived through leguminous crops such as clover in organic farming, as the use of artificial N is not permitted, but for this to release N to benefit the crop it must be destroyed and ploughing is really the only way.

However it is possible to use vetches, for instance, which can be destroyed using surface cultivations, although this is only practicable in stockless organic systems where there is no need for a grazing/forage element to the rotation.

I had a field under such a system which we did not plough for six years and even grew potatoes during this period.

Although we did not invert the soil we did carry out many deep cultivations to work up sufficient tilth to bed form. As a consequence, soil organic matter in organic systems will tend not to reach the levels attainable in lo-till systems.

Many organic farmers would like to reduce cultivation intensity, but no research has been done without the use of herbicides, so the risk is deemed to be too great.

From: Alastair Leake

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