30% of usable agricultural land to be cultivated organically by 2030; that is the ambition of the Development Plan for organic farming in Wallonia. To achieve this goal, there is much research to be done, and the CRA-W SYCBIO platform is there to help.
What does SYCBIO involve?
The SYCBIO platform (SYStèmes de Cultures BIOlogiques [Organic Cropping Systems]) was launched at the end of 2018 on a 6-hectare plot belonging to the CRA-W in Gembloux. It is an experimental project whose overall aim is to create cropping systems (SdC) that are agronomically and economically sustainable. How? By testing, assessing, and comparing 3 different SdCs developed on this plot:
· The reference SdC: with high-performance, varied mechanical weeding tools, access to commercial organic fertilisers, and substantial investment in inputs.
· The autonomous SdC: with reduced spending on inputs, no exogenous input of Nitrogen and Phosphorus via commercial organic fertilisers, and frequent use of legumes as the main crop, whether in combination or as plant cover crops.
· The ABC SdC: with reduced spending on inputs, no exogenous input of Nitrogen and Phosphorus via commercial organic fertilisers, a no-tillage policy, and the management of weeds by plant cover and/or intercropping.
Performance of the SdCs [Organic Cropping Systems] studied after 3 years
The agronomic characteristics monitored were the development of weeds and diseases, the yields, and the quality of the crops. The different SdCs have different crop rotations, therefore comparing the results for the gross yield is of little value.
The main features of the soil have changed little since the start of the trial. However the soil structural stability samples show a very clear, progressive difference between the SdCs from one year to the next, the ABC SdC proving to be the most stable. On the other hand, one major obstacle in the case of the latter is the development of weeds that are difficult to manage.
The economic balance is currently under study. A full report of these results will be available at the end of 2022.