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Neuhoff D.,University of Bonn | Tashi S.,Royal University of Bhutan | Rahmann G.,Thuenen Institute of Organic Farming | Denich M.,University of Bonn
Organic Agriculture | Year: 2014

The Government of Bhutan, a poor rugged mountainous kingdom in the Himalayas, aims to convert the whole agricultural area to Organic Agriculture (OA) by 2020 in an effort to provoke a substantial increase of productivity and farmers income while preserving the environment. Currently less than 10 % of the agricultural area of Bhutan is in OA production. We analysed the assumptions of the Bhutanese Government cited above from an agronomic perspective. According to our estimates, farmer incomes after conversion will increase only if organic crops will out-yield conventional crops or if farmers can realize higher market prices. Organic yields may partly increase beyond current productivity but may not become as high as in systems using agrochemicals. Under these premises, higher farmer incomes after mass conversion are not likely. The current low agricultural productivity is mainly a result of low soil fertility combined with other system-independent factors such as inadequate input supply, e.g. low quality seeds, lack of techniques and knowledge, inefficient management, labour shortage and poor infrastructure. These problems need to be tackled with integrated approaches, which should include organic management practices such as growing fodder legumes. Integrating more strategies of OA into Bhutanese agriculture is expected to have positive ecological effects. System comparisons between conventional and organic production require more empirical data on the agronomic and economic performances, which are yet to be generated in Bhutan. In addition to trade policies, market and infrastructure development, the organic sector will benefit from a well-resourced Centre of Excellence to focus on research and knowledge transfer. © 2014, Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.


March S.,Thuenen Institute of Organic Farming | Brinkmann J.,Thuenen Institute of Organic Farming | Winckler C.,University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna
Organic Agriculture | Year: 2014

In this study, we initiated four regional stable schools focusing on animal health within a total of 19 German organic dairy farms. A modified stable school approach was used, i.e. providing the farmers with detailed information on the health status of each farm. The participating farmers showed a positive attitude towards this concept; they appreciated the joint search for effective and feasible measures and evaluated the self-determined approach in the stable school as highly motivating. Accordingly, the compliance regarding implementation was high. More than two thirds of all 123 recommendations given by the stable school groups to host farmers were implemented. The degree of implementation was similar to the level achieved in other intervention studies using face-to-face advice. Across all farms, cleanliness of the cows improved significantly over the 2 -year monitoring period. In nine farms, which had implemented measures regarding udder health, the somatic cell score improved significantly and milk yield increased as compared to the control peer farms. However, treatment incidence for mastitis and antibiotic drying-off remained unchanged. These findings suggest that dairy cattle health in commercial organic dairy farms may be improved in response to farm-individual intervention measures through the stable school approach, which was well received by the farmers. However, additional studies are necessary to investigate the implementation of stable schools in a larger-scale setting under practical conditions, e.g. by advisory services. © 2014, Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.


Brenninkmeyer C.,University of Kassel | Dippel S.,University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna | Brinkmann J.,Thuenen Institute of Organic Farming | March S.,Thuenen Institute of Organic Farming | And 2 more authors.
Animal | Year: 2015

In this study, a data set of 2922 lactating dairy cows in a sample of 64 conventional and organic dairy farms with Holstein Friesian cows in Germany and 31 conventional dairy farms with the dual purpose breed Fleckvieh in Austria was used to screen for correlations between the occurrences of different integument alterations. All cows were housed in cubicle systems. Alterations were classified as hairless areas (H), scabs or wounds (W) or swellings (S) and assessed at 15 locations of the cows’ body. Highest median farm prevalences were found at the joints of the legs, which are already commonly included in studies on integumentary alterations: median farm prevalence was 83% for S and 48% for H at the carpal joints, followed by H (38%) and S (20%) at the lateral tarsal joints and H at the lateral calcanei (20%). Additional body parts with notable median prevalences for H were the hip bones (13%), pin bones (12%) and sacrum (11%). Three cluster models, with 2, 5 and 14 clusters, were built by hierarchical clustering of prevalences of the 30 most relevant alteration location combinations. Clustering revealed that location overruled type of lesion in most cases. Occasionally, clusters represented body segments significantly distant from each other, for example the carpal joints and lateral and dorsal calcanei. However, some neighbouring areas such as the medial and lateral hock area should be analysed separately from each other for causal analysis as they formed distinct clusters. © The Animal Consortium 2015


Ren H.,Nanjing Agricultural University | Ren H.,University of Kiel | Ren H.,Inner Mongolia Agricultural University | Han G.,Inner Mongolia Agricultural University | And 5 more authors.
Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment | Year: 2015

Overgrazing has driven degradation and desertification of semi-arid grasslands in Northern China over recent decades. Selective grazing by sheep influences sward structure by inducing heterogeneous vegetation patterns comprising overgrazed hotspots and areas rejected by grazing sheep. In this study, we examined the effects of grazing intensity (ungrazed, light and heavy grazing in 2008 and 2010) and grazing system (a mixed system involving continuous grazing alternating annually with hay making vs. a continuous system involving continuous utilization of the same area for grazing) on plant biomass distribution and ecosystem functioning after 4 years and 6 years of controlled grazing in a semi-arid steppe of Inner Mongolia, China. The spatial biomass distribution was determined by sward height measurements converted to biomass and afterwards visualized in biomass distribution semivariograms. Within each of the different areas: grazed (i.e., areas frequently grazed by sheep), rejected (i.e., areas largely avoided by grazing sheep) and fenced (i.e., areas from which grazing had been excluded by fencing), plant species and soil parameters were sampled in order to analyze the mechanisms and effects of grazing patterns on ecosystem functioning. The results revealed a more homogeneous biomass distribution in the ungrazed and heavily grazed plots compared to lightly grazed plots, in which heterogeneous biomass distribution patterns included both overgrazed hotspots and rejected areas. The patch vegetation patterns were consistent between years only under light grazing intensity. However, patch vegetation patterns in the continuous system did not necessarily indicate negative effects on grassland ecosystem functioning. Within the 6 years of grazing experiment, it appears that patchy structure rather than homogeneous patterns showed higher biodiversity, significant variations in litter, soil water content and soil temperature and smaller effects on belowground biomass and carbon storage. Therefore, heterogeneous patchy vegetation patterns are likely to moderate grassland recovery and optimize ecosystem functioning by forming resource islands with sufficient water and nutrients in the short run. © 2015 Elsevier B.V..


Brenninkmeyer C.,University of Kassel | Dippel S.,University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna | Dippel S.,Institute for Animal Welfare and Animal Husbandry | Brinkmann J.,Thuenen Institute of Organic Farming | And 3 more authors.
Animal | Year: 2016

In this study, a data set of 2922 lactating dairy cows in a sample of 64 conventional and organic dairy farms with Holstein Friesian cows in Germany and 31 conventional dairy farms with the dual purpose breed Fleckvieh in Austria was used to screen for correlations between the occurrences of different integument alterations. All cows were housed in cubicle systems. Alterations were classified as hairless areas (H), scabs or wounds (W) or swellings (S) and assessed at 15 locations of the cows' body. Highest median farm prevalences were found at the joints of the legs, which are already commonly included in studies on integumentary alterations: median farm prevalence was 83% for S and 48% for H at the carpal joints, followed by H (38%) and S (20%) at the lateral tarsal joints and H at the lateral calcanei (20%). Additional body parts with notable median prevalences for H were the hip bones (13%), pin bones (12%) and sacrum (11%). Three cluster models, with 2, 5 and 14 clusters, were built by hierarchical clustering of prevalences of the 30 most relevant alteration location combinations. Clustering revealed that location overruled type of lesion in most cases. Occasionally, clusters represented body segments significantly distant from each other, for example the carpal joints and lateral and dorsal calcanei. However, some neighbouring areas such as the medial and lateral hock area should be analysed separately from each other for causal analysis as they formed distinct clusters. © The Animal Consortium 2015.

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