Case Study 8. Intensive versus extensive versus vegetable organic farming. Atlantic Central (Belgium).
Which problem will be solved: The intensive vegetable production in Belgium with intensive tillage, limited crop rotation and unilateral fertilization has a negative effect on soil quality. This could also lead to a favorable environment for pests and diseases and result in a lower yield and quality of the crop.
State of the art: In Belgium around 45% of the area of vegetable production outdoors are used for intensive farming. The rest is cultivated in crop rotation with arable crops (extensive farming). The growers are mainly focused on the yield of their crops, sometimes at the expense of the soil quality.
Objective: The objective is to test the positive effect of extensive and organic farming on the soil compared to intensive farming. What is the effect on the fertility of the soil and on soil pathogens when reversing to another farming system.
Proposed management practices: We will divide a trial field with intensive vegetable production into three parcels. In one parcel we maintain intensive farming, in the other parcels we make the comparison with extensive and organic farming. This trial field will be located at the trial station, but we will also follow up farmers who make the switch between different systems. Different cultivation techniques, reduced tillage, use of compost and green manure will be studied.
Progress with the case study in relation with the state of the art: With these studies we hope to demonstrate the long-term positive effects of extensive and organic farming compared to intensive farming. Growers need to be convinced of the positive effects this type of farming can have on their soil and their crops, even when they don’t see immediate results in for example the yield. The goal is to persuade them that investing in a healthy soil will eventually result in a better crop.