In Hungary, 48.5% of the land is under agricultural crop production, so it is important to consider these areas also as habitats. In the SOWAP project - under the EU Life-Environment Programme and in cooperation with Syngenta - we tested whether conservation tillage (disk instead of plough, crop residues left on soil surface) is beneficial for earthworms and farmland birds in comparison to conventional tillage. These taxa are important bioindicators of good soil health and healthy countryside, respectively. The study site (Dióskál) is in a hilly agricultural region in Zala County, southwest of Lake Balaton. The experiment was carried out on 12 pairs of plots (12 conventional, 12 conservation, each between 3-5 ha in size, in total 107 ha), in maize-wheat crop rotation, between 2003-2005. Earthworms were sampled twice a year, and feeding birds were recorded weekly within two winter periods, along transects. Comparing to conventional tilled plots, the number of earthworms was significantly higher on the conservation tilled plots, and their weight was also significantly higher, in both years and in case of both crop rotations. Conservation tillage was beneficial during two winter periods, in both crop rotations, and principally so for seed eating small songbirds such as Skylark, Tree Sparrow, Brambling, Goldfinch, Greenfinch and Yellowhammer. At nearly all sampling dates (12 out of 15) of both winter periods there was a significant effect of tillage on the occurrence of small songbirds, for the benefit of conservation tillage. At species level tillage had a significant effect on 7 out of the 12 species that could be examined. All of these were recorded more frequently on the conservation tilled plots. In a smaller group of the species we also explored whether the number of birds by observations differed at the two tillage types. Pheasants, Skylarks and Tree Sparrows were detected in significantly greater numbers on the conservation plots. We conclude that using conservation instead of conventional tillage, besides protecting soil resources, may also promote biodiversity within an intensive agricultural system.
|Translated title of the contribution||Comparative agroecological study of tillage methods|
|Number of pages||19|
|Journal||Journal of Landscape Ecology|
|Publication status||Published - Oct 23 2008|
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Nature and Landscape Conservation