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How nitrogen losses in German intensive field vegetable production systems can be reduced using the simulation model EU-Rotate


2007 - 2010

The objective of the project was the identification of vegetable crop rotations which can both reduce nitrogen losses from field production systems and maintain the competitiveness of the grower. For this purpose, the agro ecosystem model EU-Rotate was to be validated using data from field experiments. When evaluated as sufficiently accurate the model was to be used to identify appropriate crop rotations under different site conditions by means of scenario simulations. For the model validation, field experiments were performed at three different locations in Germany in two or three consecutive years testing contrasting crop rotations. These crop rotations were selected with the objective of combining high amounts of N in crop residues and different catch crop treatments.

Cooperation Partners

Dr. Norbert Laun, Dienstleistungszentrum ländlicher Raum Rheinpfalz

How nitrogen losses in German intensive field vegetable production systems can be reduced using the simulation model EU-Rotate

Our first hypothesis, that the use of catch crops can considerably reduce N losses in comparison with fallow during the winter period was not confirmed. Under the conditions of the field experiments, catch crops had only small impacts on the N balance of the whole crop rotation and, in particular, catch crop use did not always reduce N losses. This is a remarkable result, considering that cauliflower was selected as the main crop, which is particularly prone to N balance surpluses and hence offers a great potential for the effective reduction of N losses by catch crops.

This result can presumably be in part explained by gaseous N losses from cauliflower crop residues. Future investigations should therefore also focus on measures to reduce gaseous N losses from fresh crop residues. The weather conditions strongly affected the N balances of the crop rotations and caused great variability of the results between experimental years. This supported our second hypothesis that effects of different crop rotation on the N balance can only be assessed in long-term trials.

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