A no-till system is based on the combination of several elements: stopping ploughing and deep use of rotary harrows or rotavators, installation of multi-species cover crops between two main crops, direct sowing in mulches of these covers, use of competitive species and cultivars (triticale, oats, spelt, ancient wheat cultivars), design of crop rotations adapted to farm characteristics and weed control, if necessary superficial soil work to about 3 cm depth, installation of permanent dwarf legume cover crops and direct sowing of crops in these covers, inclusion of temporary grasslands based on grass/legumes mixtures in crop rotations.
Complex manure of cover crops and temporary grasslands can be used by livestock. Legume-based temporary grasslands play an important role in the system. They store significant amounts of carbon in soil and by increasing the organic matter content, they restore soil fertility. They symbiotically fix atmospheric nitrogen which is partially available for subsequent crops. This allows fast growth and good yields of these crops. These grasslands, installed for periods of 1-3 years, also deplete weed seed bank and most often largely suppress weeds. They imply crop/livestock integration in the same farm or in complementary farms specialized either in livestock breeding or in cropping. Livestock provides additional income over annual crops.
Grassland conversion is carried out in summer by using a rotavator that scalps plants to 3 cm depth followed by 1-2 passages of harrow to dry out plants. For a two-year old grassland cut the first year four times a year, the sacrifice of the eighth cut only corresponds to about 5 – 10% of the total yield. This slight production loss is largely offset by the yield gain of the next crop.
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