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Optimising no-till methods within agroforestry

Take me to the farm

Project Hansbeke Agro-Ecologie

PHAE (Hansbeke AgroEcology) is a certified organic arable farm in Belgium covering 60 hectares, which rotates the production of legumes, cereals, and temporary grassland. One of the farm’s main interests is the improvement of soil quality through the implementation of agroecological principles, including the method known as ‘no-tillage’ (farming without disturbing the soil surface through rotation) and the incorporation of ponds, trees, hedges, and grass strips on the farmland, as detailed by our colleague Koen: 
image/svg+xml Organic farming system Crops Individual farm Animals Components Trees Agroclimatic zone Atlantic . Hansbeke Belgium Hansbeke Agro-Ecologie
After years of conventional farming, farm manager Felix de Bousies observed the damage being done to the farm’s main asset: the soil. After learning about studies showing that the no-tillage approach can restore soil fertility, improve soil drainage, and capture more carbon, de Bousies switched to this agroecological method in 2017. 
In a no-tillage system, shallow cultivation fissures are created before sowing a main or cover crop. Weeds are controlled by light hoeing on the soil surface, the use of annual and permanent cover crops – including temporary grassland with goat grazing to exhaust weed seedbanks – and the use of ‘fast growing’ crops that quickly cover the soil to prevent weed germination.  
image/svg+xml In a no-tillage system, shallow cultivation holes are created beforesowing a main or cover crop. Weeds are controlled by light hoeing onthe soil surface, the use of annual and permanent cover crops –including temporary grassland with goat grazing to exhaust weedseedbanks – and the use of ‘fast growing’ crops that quickly cover thesoil to prevent weed germination How does this system work?
Acknowledging challenges and overcoming them

The team at PHAE hope to see an increase in soil fertility and biodiversity, improved drainage, and discover the additional benefits of reduced farm operating costs due to the no-tillage approach.

The land managers also anticipate trees and hedges to benefit from the reduced disturbance of the soil, as well as from the additional fertilisation provided by biodegraded fallen leaves. 

So, what are the benefits of agroforestry?

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COORDINATOR
Dr. Sara Burbi - Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience - Coventry University, Ryton Gardens Campus, CV8 LG, UK
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