Nine-year results on maize and processing tomato cultivation in an organic and in a conventional low input cropping system

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Michela Farneselli
Paolo Benincasa *
Giacomo Tosti
Roberta Pace
Francesco Tei
Marcello Guiducci
(*) Corresponding Author:
Paolo Benincasa | paoloben@unipg.it

Abstract

Nine-year results on yields and apparent balances of organic matter and nitrogen (N) are reported for maize and processing tomato cultivated in a long term comparison trial between an organic and a conventional low-input system in Central Italy. In every year, above ground biomass and N accumulation of each cash crop and green manure, including weeds, and the partitioning between marketable yield and crop residues were determined. Apparent dry matter and nitrogen balances were calculated at the end of each crop cycle by taking into account the amounts of dry matter and ex-novo N supplied to the system as green manure legume Ndfa (i.e. an estimate of N derived from the atmosphere via symbiotic fixation) and fertilizers, and those removed with marketable yield. Processing tomato complied with organic cultivation better than maize. As compared to the conventional crop cultivation, organic tomato provided similar yields, used supplied N more efficiently and left lower residual N after harvest, with lower related risks of pollution. Organic maize yielded less than conventional one. The main limitation for organic maize was the low N availability during initial growth phases, due to either low N supply or low rate of N release from incorporated green manure biomass. In both organic and conventional cultivation the system sustainability could be improved by an appropriate crop rotation: wheat in fall winter likely prevented leaching loss of mineral N in both systems; green manure crops in the organic system allowed to either trap and recycle soil mineral N or supply ex novo legume Ndfa to the soil, with benefits in mitigation of N pollution and improvement in self-sufficiency of the system.

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