Some soil health-promoting practices – not just for organic farmers
A series of Best4Soil events on soil health
The importance of soil health is becoming ever more apparent. One element of this, the prevention of damage of pests and diseases coming from soil is the focus of the Best4Soil project. Within the framework of this project, we are holding an eight-part series of events entitled ‘Some soil health-promoting practices – not just for organic farmers’, where we talk primarily with Hungarian experts about the technologies and techniques highlighted by the project. There are discussions about composting, recycling organic matter, crop rotation planning and cover crops. We can see research findings and farmers experience. The results and practices presented here are useful not only in organic farming, but for all farmers who want to reduce their pesticide use, and to improve the health, productivity and value of their soil.
Below is a brief summary of the first four events that have already taken place:
The main topics of the first online workshop, held on 18th February and entitled ‘Benefits - Risks - Experiences in the Use of Cover Crops in the Field’ were properties of plant species and mixtures suitable for cover crops, and ways of fitting them into farming practices. In a talk entitled ‘Improving Soil Health with the Help of Cover Crops (Cover Crops: Experiences, Opportunities, Challenges)’, Zsombor Diriczi (Démétér Biosystems Kft.) presented his perspectives and experiences regarding the development of cover crop seed mixes, and the main properties of these mixes. Vilmos Fejes (Lajtamag Kft.) gave a presentation entitled ‘The Role of Green Manure and Mulch Seed Mixtures in Arable Farming from the Perspective of Lajtamag Kft.’, which first described the legal requirements for green manure. He then presented the arguments in favour of using green manure, the most important of which are: protection against erosion, reduced weed pressure, a nematode-reducing effect, increased soil life, the preservation of soil structure, and nitrogen fixation. He described the main types of green manure and their characteristics. In a presentation entitled ‘Supporting ZERO Input Farming with Cover Crops’, Péter Szabadka (farmer) outlined the techniques he applied on his own farm. He cultivates almost half of his farm is cerified organic production with the aim of converting the entire farm to organic. In his presentation, he discussed his views on fitting cover crops into crop rotation, the tillage practice used on his farm (he uses only shallow cultivation, with a maximum of three tillage runs between two plants).
At the event on 25 February, the main topic of the second online workshop entitled ‘Crop rotation/crop rotation planning’ was crop rotation, and the perspectives and possibilities of using crop rotation planning to control soil-borne pests. Katalin Allacherné Szépkuthy, a colleague at ÖMKi, gave a presentation entitled ‘Humus-Building Plants and Their Markets - Perspectives on Crop Rotation Planning’ in which she described the forms of organic matter in the soil and their characteristics, including the importance and role of humus in the soil. In a presentation entitled ‘Possibilities for Reducing Pesticide Use’, Péter Hertelendy (plant protection specialist) reviewed the possibilities for reducing pesticide use, highlighting agrotechnical measures. He stressed the need to avoid unnecessary pesticide use. There are number of agrotechnical options for reducing pesticide use, such as the choice of sowing time, the proper cultivation of stubble fields, using crop rotation, and the cultivation of disease-resistant varieties. In a presentation entitled “Perspectives on the Use of Crop Rotation on an Organic Farm”, Balint Dankó (Csoroszlya Farm) showed concrete examples of how an organic farm grows arable crops on 265 hectares and what are the points that they consider when planning crop rotations on their farm.
The main topic of the third online workshop entitled ‘The Benefits and Risks of Compost Use in Agriculture” on 4 March was the quality of compost made mainly from waste and experiences of its use in agriculture. Katalin Allacherné Szépkuthy, a colleague at ÖMKi, emphasized in her presentation entitled ‘The Use of Compost in Organic Farming’ that the use of good quality compost is essential for organic farming. Currently, intensive organic gardeners dealing with horticultural crops are able to do so, thereby increasing organic matter reserves in their soil. In a presentation entitled ‘Composting Methods: Practical Questions and Opportunities’ Dr Levente Kardos and Dr Zsolt Kotroczó (Hungarian Agriculture and Life Sciences University, Buda Campus, Department of Agri-Environmental Sciences) first discussed organic materials in waste management, then they presented different composting systems they investigated. Dr. Tibor Aranyos (University of Debrecen AKIT Nyíregyháza Research Institute), in a presentation entitled ‘The Role of Sewage Sludge Compost in Fertilizing Sandy Soils’ discussed problems related to the disposal of sewage sludge and presented the legislation on sewage sludge use in agriculture. He pointed out that low organic matter content is a problem, especially in sandy soils, and that sewage sludge compost can help in this regard. He presented the properties and problems of sandy soils, then described experiments with sewage sludge compost and how it benefited soil productivity.
During the fourth workshop on March 11, there was a discussion about the techniques of cover crop use in vineyards. Dr Tamás Miglécz, a colleague at ÖMKi, in a talk entitled ‘Presentation of the ÖMKi Living Inter-Row Seed Mix and Perspectives on Putting Together the Inter-Row Plant Mix’ first presented the soil degradation problems associated with the transition to intensive cultivation techniques and extreme weather events, then suggested inter-row cover crops as a solution. Dr. Ádám Donkó, an external expert consultant to ÖMKi, presented the solutions for inter-row cover crops, and the advantages and disadvantages of the application of each technique in his presentation entitled ‘Soil Care Options in the Vineyard and their Effects on Soil Moisture Content and Grapes Mycorrhiza’. Gergely Makai (Tokaj Hétszőlő Vineyard) showed his practical experience in the use of cover crops on his own vineyard in a presentation entitled ‘Experiences of Inter-Row Planting at the Tokaj-Hétszőlő Vineyard’. He explained his reasons for cultivating the vineyard according to the rules of organic farming, and stressed that maintaining good soil condition is necessary for effective production, since much of the area is at risk of erosion. To address this problem, they began to work on inter-row cover cropping as a solution, with the goal of creating durable inter row vegetation cover adapted to the microclimate and soil.
Nearly 1,000 people registered for the four events, with the number of participants bear to 600. In addition, video recordings of the lectures have also been uploaded to ÖMKi's Youtube channel, so these presentations will be available for a long time to those interested.