The objective of this project is to develop a European network of farming system experiments in order to produce data and to demonstrate the reliability of integrated farming systems. All the 6 Member States of the European Community who participate to this project have the same aims which are to develop economically ecologically acceptable and environmentally benign low input agricultural systems.
A European network of experiments has been developed covering different farming systems, to produce data on the reliability of integrated farming systems. In each country, farm scale experiments of 6 to 75 hectares were carried out using standard farm equipment. The aim was to develop integrated systems that required lower inputs than conventional systems and which were economic, ecologically acceptable and environmentally benign. Two main management systems were compared: the conventional system was represented by the most common practice of the farmers in the region where the experiment was carriedout, in respect of crop rotations, inputs and equipment used; the integrated systems used more diverse crop rotations, noninversion tillage, reduced inputs of nutrients, resistant cultivars, reduced inputs of herbicides, fungicides and insecticides and used mechanical weeding and natural regulatory processes. In some of the experiments, an organic system was included in the comparison. The range of crops covered was wide and data was collected on crop growth, yield and quality and full husbandry records were maintained, including energy costs for machinery operations, so that full financial inputs and profitability could be assessed. Pests, diseases and weeds were measured regularly, together with beneficial indicator fauna, biological, physical and chemical soil parameters, including nitrate leaching.
The prototype integrated farming systems tested in each country during the first year have given some encouraging results. At 1991 prices, some of the systems were as profitable or only slightly less profitable than conventional ones. Interactions between the various components of the systems are complex but the participants agree on the major influences of the rotation, field size and the field margin. In some experiments, noninversion tillage led to an increase in the number of weeds. This problem is a major topic for further study.
In each country we are developing farm scale experiment (6 to 75 ha) using standard farm equipment. The trials are sometimes in experimental station, sometimes directly in a commercial farm.
Two main management systems are compared :
Conventional : the most common practice of the farmer in the region where the experiment is developed : crop rotation, inputs, equipment,
Integrated : all techniques used in the systems cannot be described in this short paper : the main modifications involve integration of a more diverse crop rotation, non- inversion tillage, resistant cultivars, with reduced inputs of nutrients, herbicides, fungicides, insecticides and exploiting mechanical/cultural intervention and natural regulatory processes.
In some of the experiments an organic/biodynamic system is included in the comparison.
In these experiments, data is collected on crop growth, yield and quality, and full husbandry records are maintained including energy costs for machinery operations, so that full financial inputs and profitability can be calculated. Pests, diseases and weeds are regularly measured, together with beneficial indicator fauna, soil biological, physical and chemical parameters including nitrate leaching.
BS18 9AF Bristol