Case study 12: Belgium: Sustainable diversification of organic stockless cropping systems

Cluster 3: Crop diversification in systems from Western Europe

Organic stockless cropping systems are low diversified in the area, even though benefits of diversification are well known by farmers to control weeds or to improve soil fertility. For non-tillage farmers, crop diversification is a key solution to compensate non-ploughing effects on weed and on soil structuration.

What are the main problems underlying the emergence of the case study?
More and more farmers are challenging the possibilities of interconnecting organic stockless cropping systems and non-tillage practices in order to improve the sustainability of their cropping system. Even though the benefits of diversification are well known by farmers, to control weeds or to improve soil fertility and structuration, they need to share their expertise and imagine new rotation schemes and rules in order to reach this challenge.

How is the problem addressed and which actors are involved?
The case study was initiated by the association of two farmers groups, one conventional group partly with non-tillage systems, animated by Greenotec, and an organic group, animated by CRA-W.
Aiming at sharing experiences between both farmer groups, the two partners launched a “field visit” in 2016, which was a success. In the context of DiverIMPACTS, they will go further by initiating a collaborative research network with on-farm experiment co-defined with the farmers.

Solution investigated
There is a need to foster co-learning between organic farmers in stockless cropping systems and farmers in non-tillage systems, to co-design innovative, non-tillage organic cropping systems and practices:
Identify how diversification schemes are used to improve and maintain soil fertility and structure, on the one hand, and to control weed and disease on the other hand under such challenging cropping systems;
make the stockless farmers more at ease with no till and multi-cropping techniques, and identify interests of crop rotation towards weeds, diseases, and soil fertility management;
make the non-tillage farmers confident in the feasibility of using less or no pesticides and mineral fertilizers before their conversion to organic farming.

Expected outcome
Expectations are related to the identification of suitable diversification schemes and rules in order to converge organic and no-tillage practices to develop sustainable cropping systems taking also into account potential lock-ins and, if needed, downstream supply chain expectations and/or deficiency.
Gain knowledge and experience about how to promote changes at farmer’s level.

Relevance for the DiverIMPACTS goals?
DiverIMPACTS’ case study dynamic and support from the workpackages will provide tools and know how to support, accelerate, and build in the process.

Contact

  • Daniel Jamar, CRA-W, case study leader