Tools to support farmer decision – making in arable cropping systems.

K Topp, (submitter)


Climate change is requiring the farmers re-evaluate their farming system. There is a need for the arable sector to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases, and to adapt their systems to the changing climate. To assist farmers in the decision making process, tools have developed that will assists farmers in understanding the cause of these emissions and therefore assist in identifying the potential for mitigation. Tools have also been developed with the purpose of understanding the role of crop choice on nutrient supply and organic matter status. Efficient use of nutrients and maintaining or enhancing the soil carbon stocks will have benefits in terms of mitigation and for the long-term sustainability of the farming system. The farmer friendly tools that have been assessed for their ability to aid decision-making under climate change are namely 1) AgRECalc©, a farm-level carbon-footprinting tool, 2) Soil Explorer, a field-level tool for assessing carbon and nitrogen losses from fertilisation, and 3) ROTOR, a crop rotation planning and evaluation tool.The tools need be easy for the farmer to use and therefore the input data needs to be relatively easily obtainable, and the output needs to be in an accessible format. ROTOR is used to evaluate alternative cropping strategies and the implications of these strategies for nitrogen and soil organic carbon balance, Soil Explorer assesses the effects of these rotations on the soil carbon balance and the losses of nitrogen from the system, and AgRECalc is used to determine the effects of these changes on the emissions from the farming system. Thus in terms of mitigations, the tools can identify the effect of changes in management that affect the cropping system's impact on emissions, changes in soil carbon and nutrient cycling. The tools have been used to assess the effect of current management of the key attributes assessed by the models for the three organics arable sites, which are situated in Scotland, The Netherlands and Germany.

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