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Aguilera E.,Pablo De Olavide University | Lassaletta L.,University Pierre and Marie Curie | Lassaletta L.,Complutense University of Madrid | Gattinger A.,Research Institute of Organic Agriculture | Gimeno B.S.,CIEMAT
Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment | Year: 2013

Mediterranean croplands are seasonally dry agroecosystems with low soil organic carbon (SOC) content and high risk of land degradation and desertification. The increase in SOC is of special interest in these systems, as it can help to build resilience for climate change adaptation while contributing to mitigate global warming through the sequestration of atmospheric carbon (C). We compared SOC change and C sequestration under a number of recommended management practices (RMPs) with neighboring conventional plots under Mediterranean climate (174 data sets from 79 references). The highest response in C sequestration was achieved by those practices applying largest amounts of C inputs (land treatment and organic amendments). Conservation tillage practices (no-tillage and reduced tillage) induced lower effect sizes but significantly promoted C sequestration, whereas no effect and negative net sequestration rates were observed for slurry applications and unfertilized treatments, respectively. Practices combining external organic amendments with cover crops or conservation tillage (combined management practices and organic management) showed very good performance in C sequestration. We studied separately the changes in SOC under organic management, with 80 data sets from 30 references. The results also suggest that the degree of intensification in C input rate is the main driver behind the relative C accumulation in organic treatments. Thus, highest net C sequestration rates were observed in most eco-intensive groups, such as " irrigated" " horticulture" and controlled experiments (" plot scale" ). © 2013.


Hartmann M.,Institute for Sustainability science | Hartmann M.,Swiss Federal Institute of forest | Frey B.,Swiss Federal Institute of forest | Mayer J.,Institute for Sustainability science | And 2 more authors.
ISME Journal | Year: 2015

Low-input agricultural systems aim at reducing the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides in order to improve sustainable production and ecosystem health. Despite the integral role of the soil microbiome in agricultural production, we still have a limited understanding of the complex response of microbial diversity to organic and conventional farming. Here we report on the structural response of the soil microbiome to more than two decades of different agricultural management in a long-term field experiment using a high-throughput pyrosequencing approach of bacterial and fungal ribosomal markers. Organic farming increased richness, decreased evenness, reduced dispersion and shifted the structure of the soil microbiota when compared with conventionally managed soils under exclusively mineral fertilization. This effect was largely attributed to the use and quality of organic fertilizers, as differences became smaller when conventionally managed soils under an integrated fertilization scheme were examined. The impact of the plant protection regime, characterized by moderate and targeted application of pesticides, was of subordinate importance. Systems not receiving manure harboured a dispersed and functionally versatile community characterized by presumably oligotrophic organisms adapted to nutrient-limited environments. Systems receiving organic fertilizer were characterized by specific microbial guilds known to be involved in degradation of complex organic compounds such as manure and compost. The throughput and resolution of the sequencing approach permitted to detect specific structural shifts at the level of individual microbial taxa that harbours a novel potential for managing the soil environment by means of promoting beneficial and suppressing detrimental organisms. © 2015 International Society for Microbial Ecology.


Willems H.,ETH Zurich | Kreuzer M.,ETH Zurich | Leiber F.,ETH Zurich | Leiber F.,Research Institute of Organic Agriculture
Small Ruminant Research | Year: 2014

The special quality of foods from alpine grazing systems concerning their fatty acid (FA) composition is well established. However, the contribution of different specific vegetation types and the animal's genotype to this alpine effect is still unclear. In the present study, the FA profiles of muscle and adipose tissue lipids were determined in lambs that had grazed either an intensively managed lowland pasture or one of three characteristic alpine vegetation types differing in plant species number and composition, forage quality and amount, and composition of phenolic compounds and FA. On each vegetation type and in two subsequent years, two groups of lambs (seven Engadine sheep, ES; and seven Valaisian Black Nose sheep, VS) grazed for 9 weeks and were subsequently slaughtered (total n=110 lambs). Forage samples, meat ( Longissimus dorsi muscle, LD) and perirenal adipose tissue were analysed for their FA composition. Forages were additionally analysed for contents of phenolic compounds. Although proportions of α-linolenic acid (C18:3. n-3) and linoleic acid (C18:2. n-6) in plant biomass were clearly higher in the lowland compared to the alpine vegetation, the proportions of these FA were increased in the adipose tissue of alpine grazing sheep by 20-87% and by 26-58% in muscle compared to lowland grazing, depending on the alpine vegetation type. The levels of these two FA in body tissues differed between lambs having grazed different alpine pastures and were clearly positively associated with the contents of phenolic compounds in the vegetation but not with its lipid composition. Compared to the lowland pasture, conjugated linoleic acid (C18:2. c9. t11) in the tissues was lower when the lambs grazed alpine pastures, but did not differ between the alpine vegetation types. Slight breed differences were found, with a trend for higher proportions of long chain polyunsaturated FA at cost of saturated and monounsaturated FA in the VS compared to the ES. In conclusion, vegetation type is an important factor determining the FA composition in lamb meat and differentiating the alpine effect in this respect. The data clearly suggest that the plant secondary compounds in the swards prevented part of C18:3. n-3 and C18:2. n-6 from being hydrogenated in the rumen. Tissue-specific differences in incorporation of C18:2. n-6 and C18:3. n-3 point to a physiological optimum level in the muscle but not in the adipose tissue. © 2013 Elsevier B.V.


Kratz M.,Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center | Baars T.,Research Institute of Organic Agriculture | Guyenet S.,University of Washington
European Journal of Nutrition | Year: 2013

Purpose: To comprehensively review the data on the relationship between the consumption of dairy fat and high-fat dairy foods, obesity, and cardiometabolic disease. Methods: We have conducted a systematic literature review of observational studies on the relationship between dairy fat and high-fat dairy foods, obesity, and cardiometabolic disease. We have integrated these findings with data from controlled studies showing effects of several minor dairy fatty acids on adiposity and cardiometabolic risk factors, and data on how bovine feeding practices influence the composition of dairy fat. Results: In 11 of 16 studies, high-fat dairy intake was inversely associated with measures of adiposity. Studies examining the relationship between high-fat dairy consumption and metabolic health reported either an inverse or no association. Studies investigating the connection between high-fat dairy intake and diabetes or cardiovascular disease incidence were inconsistent. We discuss factors that may have contributed to the variability between studies, including differences in (1) the potential for residual confounding; (2) the types of high-fat dairy foods consumed; and (3) bovine feeding practices (pasture- vs. grain-based) known to influence the composition of dairy fat. Conclusions: The observational evidence does not support the hypothesis that dairy fat or high-fat dairy foods contribute to obesity or cardiometabolic risk, and suggests that high-fat dairy consumption within typical dietary patterns is inversely associated with obesity risk. Although not conclusive, these findings may provide a rationale for future research into the bioactive properties of dairy fat and the impact of bovine feeding practices on the health effects of dairy fat. © 2012 Springer-Verlag.


Stolz H.,Research Institute of Organic Agriculture | Stolze M.,Research Institute of Organic Agriculture | Janssen M.,University of Kassel | Hamm U.,University of Kassel
Food Quality and Preference | Year: 2011

As a result of continuous growth in the organic market, organic food is increasingly available in conventional retail outlets, where organic products are placed alongside both conventional and so called conventional-plus products. Conventional-plus products are food products with particular attributes that also apply to organic products, such as 'no artificial additives or flavours'. This overlap provokes the question whether conventional-plus products might compete with organic products.The aim of our study was to identify occasional organic consumers' preferences and underlying determinants in relation to organic, conventional and conventional-plus milk, fruit yoghurt and apples in Germany and Switzerland. To achieve these objectives, we conducted purchase simulations combined with face-to-face interviews. The data were analysed using contingency tables and multinomial logit models.In the purchase simulations, a large proportion of consumers who usually buy conventional products switched to conventional-plus products. This indicates that conventional-plus products compete with conventional rather than with organic products. Consumer attitudes towards the attributes 'from pasture-raised cows', 'no preventive use of antibiotics', 'no use of genetically modified organisms', 'organic production', 'domestic production' and 'higher price for higher quality' determined their preferences for organic, conventional and conventional-plus products. Differences in attitudes between organic and conventional buyers were generally larger than those between conventional-plus and conventional buyers. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.


Braunisch V.,University of Bern | Braunisch V.,Forest Research Institute of Baden Wuerttemberg FVA | Home R.,Research Institute of Organic Agriculture | Pellet J.,University of Bern | And 2 more authors.
Biological Conservation | Year: 2012

A wide gap between research and practice hinders the implementation of biodiversity conservation recommendations. As subjects studied by conservation scientists might bear little relevance for implementation, surveys have identified and framed research questions relevant to conservation in practice. No attempts to prioritize these questions have yet been published, although it would provide invaluable information for steering practice-oriented research. We surveyed Swiss conservation practitioners with the aim of identifying and prioritizing their needs in terms of useful scientific information. A first inductive survey of a selected subgroup generated a list of relevant research questions that were reformulated to be generalizable to all main Swiss ecosystems. The resulting compiled questionnaire was submitted through an online platform to all officially registered practitioners who were asked to rate the importance to their own field of expertise of each question, to nominate possibly omitted, subsidiary questions and to specify "hot topics" typically relevant to their field. Most respondents operated in several ecosystems, which facilitated the identification of general and ecosystem-related research priorities. Generally, questions related to economic, societal and stakeholder conflicts were found to be more important than conceptual questions. Questions concerning single-species were rated higher than ecosystem-related questions. Subsidiary questions and hot topics were subsumed and integrated into a final catalogue of research questions. By identifying and framing scientific questions of both general practical relevance and specific regional importance, this study provides a practice-oriented research agenda and a basis for developing conjoint activities with the intention to bridge the gap between conservation science and action. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.


Sans F.X.,University of Barcelona | Sans F.X.,Research Institute of Organic Agriculture | Berner A.,Research Institute of Organic Agriculture | Armengot L.,University of Barcelona | Mader P.,Research Institute of Organic Agriculture
Weed Research | Year: 2011

Conservation tillage could provide environmental benefits to organic farming. However, potential weed problems often tend to discourage farmers from adopting it. The effects of tillage (reduced vs. conventional), fertilisation (slurry vs. manure compost) and the application of biodynamic preparations (with and without) on crop yield and on weed cover, diversity and biological attributes were investigated in a cropping sequence of wheat, sunflower and spelt. Total weed cover and perennial cover in reduced tillage treatments were two to three times greater than in conventional treatments. Monocotyledon cover in reduced tillage was three times that in conventional tillage in spelt, whereas the dicotyledon Stellaria media dominated in sunflower. Weed diversity was similar across treatments, regardless of cereal crop, whereas lower diversity values were observed with reduced tillage in sunflower, because of the dominance of S. media. There was virtually no effect of fertilisation and biodynamic preparations on weed parameters. Although wheat and spelt yield decreased in reduced tillage plots (14% and 8% respectively), the sunflower grain yield was unaffected. Reduced tillage could thus be useful in organic cropping systems but would require proper management of perennial and monocotyledonous weeds, which are often problematic for annual crops. © 2011 The Authors. Weed Research © 2011 European Weed Research Society.


Moschitz H.,Research Institute of Organic Agriculture | Stolze M.,Research Institute of Organic Agriculture
Food Policy | Year: 2010

Although, at the time of accession to the EU, organic farming policies formally were equally developed in the Czech Republic and Poland, a closer investigation reveals some variation. This paper takes a policy network perspective to explore the policy differences between these two countries. Common network themes are used to link networks with policy output. It is argued that the capacity of the organic sector and its structural organization, its cohesion, and the relationship between organic interest groups and the government affect the political discourse, and, in consequence, how organic farming policy is elaborated. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.


Niggli U.,Research Institute of Organic Agriculture
Proceedings of the Nutrition Society | Year: 2014

The greatest challenge for agriculture is to reduce the trade-offs between productivity and long-term sustainability. Therefore, it is interesting to analyse organic agriculture which is a given set of farm practices that emphasise ecological sustainability. Organic agriculture can be characterised as being less driven by off-farm inputs and being better embedded in ecosystem functions. The literature on public goods and non-commodity outputs of organic farms is overwhelming. Most publications address the positive effects of organic farming on soil fertility, biodiversity maintenance and protection of the natural resources of soil, water and air. As a consequence of focusing on public goods, organic agriculture is less productive. Meta-analyses show that organic agriculture yields range between 0·75 and 0·8 of conventional agriculture. Best practice examples from disadvantaged sites and climate conditions show equal or, in the case of subsistence farming in Sub-Saharan Africa, higher productivity of organic agriculture. Hence, organic agriculture is likely to be a good model for productive and sustainable food production. Underfunding in R&D addressing specific bottlenecks of organic agriculture are the main cause for both crop and livestock yield gaps. Therefore, the potential for improving the performance of organic agriculture through agricultural research is huge. Although organic farming is a niche in most countries, it is at the verge of becoming mainstream in leading European countries. Consumer demand has grown over the past two decades and does not seem to be a limiting factor for the future development of organic agriculture. © The Authors 2014.


Mader P.,Research Institute of Organic Agriculture | Berner A.,Research Institute of Organic Agriculture
Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems | Year: 2012

No-tillage and reduced tillage are considered sustainable options of conservation tillage. While US organic farming researchers have focused on no-tillage, European organic farming researchers have concentrated on reduced tillage through the reduction of tillage depth or the application of noninversion tillage practices. Combinations of these two approaches have been implemented by the use of the two-layer plow or the layer cultivator. These innovations often came from farmers, aiming at reducing off-farm inputs such as fuel, and saving costs and labor, while at the same time building up soil fertility. Systematic, documented research on reduced tillage systems in Europe started only 1-2 decades ago, with experiments in Germany, Switzerland and France. While most experiments mimic stockless farms, other experiments include fodder crops such as grass-clover ley and applications of manure and slurry as is typical for mixed farms with animals and crops. Soil organic carbon, microbial activity and soil structure are often improved in the upper soil layer under reduced tillage compared with plowed soils. However, these positive findings were confounded by lower yields in some cases and enhanced weed pressure, except for the two-layer plow. Often it was not possible to determine whether and to what extent yield reduction was due to weed competition or to nitrogen shortage, because of retarded nitrogen mineralization in spring in reduced tillage systems. In systems with manure use, also higher soil fertility measures concomitant with increased yields were reported under reduced tillage. Indeed, it is difficult to gain an overview on research activities dealing with reduced tillage in organic farming in Europe due to dispersed experimental infrastructures and the scarcity of peer-reviewed published literature. To close this knowledge gap a European Network is being established aiming at further developing reduced tillage systems in organic farming, addressing the issue of carbon sequestration and N2O emissions, as well as weed and nutrient management. © 2011 Cambridge University Press.

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