The research topics of the working group Soil Fertility and Cropping Systems are grouped into three fields:
Soil fertility and nutrient cycles
Examining and optimizing biological nitrogen fixation in organic agriculture; the completion of nutrient cycles in organic farms containing little-to-no animals; and the impacts of organic fertilizers, including the fermentation residue impacts from biogas production on soil fertility.
Cropping systems in organic agriculture
Effects of preceding main crops and cover crops; crop rotation design in organic farming; integration of energy crop production in crop rotations from organic farming; drought tolerance in lucerne / alfalfa species; measures in optimizing the quality of organically produced produce and grains (wheat, potatoes).
Natural resource protection through organic agriculture
Impacts from cultivation measures on nitrate leaching, on balances of climate relevant gasses, on biodiversity indicators.
Basic principles of implementing the research are:
- Long-term monitoring
- Analysis of cropping systems and management measures
- Testing optimizing strategies.
The Soil Fertility and Cropping Systems Working Group contributes, above all, to the BOKU-fields of competence
- “Soil and land ecosystems”
- “Food — nutrition — health” and
- “Renewable resources and resource oriented technologies”.
The experiments are conducted on experimental and practice farms as well as in greenhouses and labs, with the main focus being on arable crops. The research work is, above all, conducted in Austria but also in the Ukraine.
The experiments in Austria concentrate on the Pannonian climate with low precipitation (approx. 540 mm or 21 Inches) and Chernozemic soils. An area of 26 ha (approx. 64 acres) of the experimental management in Groß-Enzersdorf, was in 2009 converted to organic agriculture without livestock. Further experiments were and will, depending on the research questions and project types, also be applied on practice farms or together with agricultural technical schools.
Since 2002, scientific monitoring of conversion to organic agriculture has taken place on a farm from a federal experimental management LLC in Rutzendorf at Marchfeld, with 143 ha (approx. 353 acres). Through this conversion, three different fertilizing systems will be analyzed and will encompass the impacts from cultivation and accompanying agri-ecological measures concerning soil fertility, crop development and a multitude of other environmentally relevant as well as economic factors.