Centro Interdipartimentale di  Ricerche Agro-Ambientali

Enrico Avanzi

 

PAGINA INIZIALE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ORGANIC FARMING

 

  • Since the 1990s, CIRAA has been involved in research on organic farming, an activity that has constantly been increasing over the latest years.

  • Research on organic farming carried out at CIRAA follows both a systems and a reductionist approach, where more classical (i.e. reductionist) agronomic trials are always carried out within a cropping system (i.e. systemic or "holistic") context.

  • CIRAA hosts the major long-term experiment on comparison between organic and conventional arable cropping systems of the whole Mediterranean area (MASCOT), started in 2001 and covering a total area of ca. 24 ha. More specific (reductionist) trials are carried out within the larger systems comparison experimental layout, thereby keeping the "fingerprints" of the undergoing dynamics of the systems experiment.

  • Additional experiments, mainly aimed at developing innovative crop and weed management strategies for organic arable and vegetable crops, are conducted in commercial farms in Tuscany and elsewhere.

Long-term systems comparison experiment (MASCOT)

  • The MASCOT (Mediterranean Arable Systems COmparison Trial) experiment was planned in the late 1990s with the aim to establish the first exhaustive and scientifically rigorous Mediterranean long-term experiment comparing organic and conventional management systems for a typical arable crop rotation of the area. Organic management is based upon EU Reg. 2092/91 and following legislation.

  • After the conversion period, in the autumn 2001 a 5-year stockless arable crop rotation (sugar beet-common wheat-sunflower-pigeon bean-durum wheat) was started. In the organic system, red clover (Trifolium pratense) is interseeded in durum wheat and subsequently used as a green manure for either sunflower or sugar beet.

  • The aim of this experiment is to evaluate the long-term dynamics of soil physical, chemical and biological parameters, of macronutrients (NPK), of weed and pest populations and communities, of system biodiversity as well as economic and energetic aspects of systems management. A further objective is to provide, in the short-medium term, indications on the best cultural practices for the 5 crops included in the rotation.

  • The total experimental area (ca. 24 ha) is divided into fields of ca. 0.35-1 ha each, where the 5 crops are allocated and managed organically or conventionally (each group of 5 fields represents a system within a block – each crop is present every year). Systems are replicated three times according to a RCB design. Both natural and planted vegetation (lucerne strips and a mixed hedgerow composed by local species: Crataegus monogyna, Cornus sanguinea, Ligustrum vulgare, Lonicera xylosteum, Prunus spinosa and Rhamnus cathartica) was established in the winter 2001-02 to build up an ecological infrastructure and to physically separate conventionally- and organically-managed fields.

Aerial view of the long-term MASCOT experiment (site: Ragnaino, yellow contour line)

 

Fields of the MASCOT experiment

  • Additionally, two series of 5 fields (playgrounds) have been included in-between the conventional and organic systems. The playgrounds are also managed organically and have the same crop rotation, but they are used to compare (in plot trials) different options for organic management of the 5 crops (e.g. crop fertilisation, green manure species and their management, weed management alternatives, use of different machines, interseeding techniques, etc.). The outcome of trials carried out in the playgrounds, besides being used to give farmers ready-to-use practical advice, are also used to revise the structure of the organic system at the end of each rotation cycle and, if deemed necessary, to change it.

  • A PDF version of MASCOT experimental layout can be downloaded here.

For further information, please contact:

Prof. Marco Mazzoncini, University of Pisa (mazzo@agr.unipi.it)

Dr Paolo Bàrberi, Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna, Pisa (barberi@sssup.it)

 

Green manure trials

  • Stockless farming systems often suffer from insufficient nitrogen availability to crops. In Mediterranean conditions, green manure are generally represented by winter cover crops.

  • Field trials were established in autumn 2002 within the MASCOT layout to compare 5 cover crops included for use as green manure in the 5-year MASCOT organic arable crop rotation. The aim of these trials is to evaluate: (1) cover crop biomass, nitrogen supply and weed suppression; (2) productivity and nitrogen recovery of subsequent cash crops (sugar beet or sunflower); (3) mineralisation of organic matter and subsequent N release following green manure incorporation in soil.

  • Each year, this trial is located in two of the MASCOT playgrounds, following a common wheat or a durum wheat crop and preceding a sugar beet or a sunflower crop respectively. First results of these trials have been presented at the Eurosoil 2004 Conference (Freiburg, Germany): this paper can be downloaded here.

  • These trials are funded by ARSIA (Regional Agency for Innovation Development in Agriculture, Tuscany).

For further information, please contact:

Prof. Marco Mazzoncini, University of Pisa (mazzo@agr.unipi.it)

 

Pigeon bean spatial arrangement

  • Cultural measures aimed to increase crop competitiveness against weeds are very important in organic agriculture. Pigeon bean (Vicia faba L. var. minor) is an important crop for organic systems in Central and Southern Italy because it has a high protein content and can be used either as a grain fodder or a green manure crop. Pigeon bean has a high phenotypic plasticity, i.e. it is able to adjust its growth habitus and biomass distribution to different sowing densities and/or inter-row spacings.

  • A field trial was carried out in 2001-02 and 2002-03 to evaluate the effect of different crop spatial arrangements (narrowly-spaced, widely-spaced or paired rows) and mechanical weed control treatments (spring-tine harrowing with different tine adjustments or precision hoeing with/without torsion weeder) on crop growth and yield and on weed density and biomass in order to find the best cultural "package" for pigeon bean grown organically in the study area.

  • The trial was located in a MASCOT playground. First results have been presented at the 7th EWRS Mediterranean Symposium in Adana (Turkey), May 2003, and at the 6th Workshop of the EWRS Working Group on Physical and Cultural Weed Control, Øyer-Lillehammer (Norway), March 2004: this paper can be accessed here.

For further information, please contact:

Dr Paolo Bàrberi, Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna, Pisa (barberi@sssup.it)

Pigeon bean grown in paired rows (42 cm inter-rows, 14 cm between the rows in the pair)

 

Cultivar screening in common and durum wheat

  • Cultivar choice may be crucial for the success of organic systems. Evaluation of the agronomic performances of cultivars available on the market when grown under organic management can provide very valuable practical information to organic farmers.

  • Field screening trials have been established in 2002 on a large number of common wheat (Triticum aestivum) and durum wheat (Triticum durum) cultivars to evaluate their suitability to cultivation under an organic management system as well as to compare cultivar performance under conventional and organic management.

  • Cultivar performance is evaluated in terms of: crop phenological development, grain yield and yield components, grain quality, susceptibility to diseases. From autumn 2004, all the cultivars common to the conventional and the organic trials are also being specifically investigated for their competitive ability against weeds.

  • The trials are located in 4 MASCOT fields or playgrounds: 2 organically-managed and 2 conventionally-managed.

  • MASCOT is part of the Italian network of wheat cultivar screening trials, whose results constitute the official guidelines to wheat cultivar choice for Italian farmers. The trials are funded by the Italian Ministry of Agricultural Policies.

For further information, please contact:

Prof. Marco Mazzoncini, University of Pisa (mazzo@agr.unipi.it)

Dr Paola Belloni, CIRAA E. Avanzi (belloni@avanzi.unipi.it)

Wheat cultivar screening trial in a MASCOT organic playground

 

Organic food quality

  • Within the MASCOT experiment and elsewhere, CIRAA is carrying out experiments on the evaluation of organic food quality, including use of innovative methodologies such as biocrystallization. For further information, click here.

 

Crop and weed management systems in organic carrot

  • A research was started in 2000 in co-operation with ARSSA (Regional Agency for Agricultural Development, Abruzzo) with the aim to realise some operative machines for physical weed control to be used in the specific conditions of organic carrot (Daucus carota) cultivation in the Fucino plain.

  • A new spring-tine harrow (2 m-wide), a flamer equipped with four 50 cm wide rod open flame burners and a dedicated precision hoe with 11 units were built, tested and improved to perform inter- and intra-row weed control. Inter-row weed control consists of a rigid tine supporting 9 cm-wide horizontal blades, while intra-row weed control is carried out by means of vibrating teeth (torsion weeders).

  • Two crop and weed management systems for organic carrot were devised and tested: (a) 5 strips/ridge with an inter-strip distance of 30 cm and (b) 10 rows/ridge with an inter-row distance of 18 cm. The spring-tine harrow was used pre-sowing, the flamer was used pre-emergence and the precision hoe was used both early and late post-emergence.

  • The adoption of the innovative crop management system (b) has resulted in higher effectiveness of post-emergence precision hoeing compared to conventional hoeing adopted in mainstream organic carrot crop management (5 strips/ridge). Precision hoeing coupled with torsion weeding considerably increased intra-row weed control.

  • This research is funded by ARSSA (Regional Agency for Agricultural Development, Abruzzo).

For further information, please contact:

Prof. Andrea Peruzzi, University of Pisa (aperuzzi@agr.unipi.it)

Dr Michele Raffaelli, University of Pisa (mraffaelli@agr.unipi.it)

Dr Marco Ginanni, CIRAA E. Avanzi (ginanni@tiscali.it)

 

Weed management in organic spinach

  • Field research started in autumn 2002 at a commercial organic farm close to Pisa to improve weed management strategies for organic spinach (Spinacia oleracea) fresh market production.

  • The tested strategy included application of the false seed bed technique, a flaming treatment before spinach sowing and one or more post emergence hoeings. Specific operative machines (spring-tine harrow, flame weeder and precision hoe) were adjusted to the specific crop planting pattern (ridges 1.4 m wide) adopted by organic fresh spinach growers in the study area.

  • Weed community composition, density and biomass are sampled throughout the trial. Preliminary results showed that relevant improvement in weed control and crop production may be obtained with the proposed weed management strategy, which also allowed considerable labour savings compared to the standard weed management system.

  • CIRAA researchers and technicians are presently working out and testing a new versatile basket weeder-like operative machine suitable to both pre-sowing and post-emergence use.

For further information, please contact:

Prof. Andrea Peruzzi, University of Pisa (aperuzzi@agr.unipi.it)

Dr Michele Raffaelli, University of Pisa (mraffaelli@agr.unipi.it)

Dr Marco Ginanni, CIRAA E. Avanzi (ginanni@tiscali.it)

 

On-farm evaluation and improvement of organic and biodynamic crop production systems in Tuscany

  • A participatory R & D project was started in 2002 on three commercial organic or biodynamic farms located in different climatic regions of Tuscany (coastal plain, inner hills, mountain). The aim of the project is to develop – together with farmers – improved technical solutions tailored to tackle site-specific problems mainly related to soil quality and crop nutrition. Arising research questions are studied in dedicated field and controlled-environment experiments carried out at CIRAA and at the Montepaldi (Firenze) Research Station.

  • Activities carried out at the three commercial farms include: (a) preliminary screening of agroecological and economic needs (bottom-up approach); (b) joint evaluation and prioritisation of outcoming research questions; (c) joint definition and scheduling of on-farm experimental plans.

  • Activities carried out at the two experimental centres (CIRAA and Montepaldi) include: (d) prioritisation of specific research activity as jointly defined with farmers in activity (b); (e) establishment and conduction of field and controlled-environment (e.g. lysimeters) research trials aimed to provide answers to farmers’ questions.

  • Results arising from the dedicated trials carried out at the experimental centres will be subsequently implemented in the commercial farm through step-by-step joint evaluation between researchers and farmers.

  • This research is funded by ARSIA (Regional Agency for Innovation Development in Agriculture, Tuscany).

For further information, please contact:

Prof. Marco Mazzoncini, University of Pisa (mazzo@agr.unipi.it)

 

On-farm evaluation and improvement of organic beef production systems in Tuscany

  • A participatory R & D project was started in 2002 on three commercial organic beef production farms located in different climatic regions of Tuscany (inner hills or mountain). The aim of the project is to develop – together with farmers – improved technical solutions tailored to tackle site-specific problems mainly related to pasture and crop management, animal feeding and husbandry, animal health and well-being, extension needs, and produce quality, commercialisation and promotion on the market. Arising research questions are studied in dedicated on-farm experiments.

  • Activities of the project include: (a) joint comparative analysis and evaluation of major issues constraining the sustainability of organic beef production in the three farms; (b) joint definition and prioritisation of technical issues to be tackled within the project; (c) establishment and realisation of on-farm experimentation; (d) definition of conceptual schemes illustrating positive and negative interactions between agronomic, socio-economic and environmental issues and their modification in the course of the project.

  • This research is funded by ARSIA (Regional Agency for Innovation Development in Agriculture, Tuscany).

For further information, please contact:

Prof. Marco Mazzoncini, University of Pisa (mazzo@agr.unipi.it)

Dr Paolo Bàrberi, Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna, Pisa (barberi@sssup.it)

 

Publications

  • Peruzzi A., Ceccatelli M., Silvestri N. & Bàrberi P. (1995). Pirodiserbo, prospettive ed aspetti agronomici. Macchine e Motori Agricoli, 5, 11-17.

  • Peruzzi A., Bàrberi P. & Silvestri N. (1995). L’utilizzo dello strigliatore per il diserbo dei cereali. Macchine e Motori Agricoli, 5, 29-36.

  • Peruzzi A., Bàrberi P. & Silvestri N. (1995). Strigliatura del terreno. Terra & Vita, 43, 55-59.

  • Bàrberi P. (1997). Il controllo delle infestanti con mezzi non chimici. L’Informatore Agrario, 11, 25-32.

  • Peruzzi A., Bàrberi P., Ginanni M., Raffaelli M. & Silvestri N. (1997). Prove sperimentali di controllo meccanico delle infestanti del frumento mediante erpice strigliatore. Atti VI Convegno Nazionale di Ingegneria Agraria, Ancona (IT), 11-12 Sep, 669-678.

  • Peruzzi A., Raffaelli M., Bàrberi P. & Silvestri N. (1998). Experimental tests of weed control by means of finger harrowing in durum wheat. Proceedings 3rd EWRS Workshop on Physical Weed Control, Wye College, University of London (UK), 23-25 Mar.

  • Peruzzi A., Bàrberi P., Ginanni M., Nasorri V., Raffaelli M. & Silvestri N. (1998). Controllo meccanico delle infestanti del frumento con erpice strigliatore su terreno lavorato e sodo. L’Informatore Agrario, 42, 83-89.

  • Bàrberi P. & Frondoni U. (1999). Innovazioni dalla ricerca sul controllo della flora infestante. L’Informatore Agrario, 42, 123-127.

  • Bàrberi P., Silvestri N., Peruzzi A. & Raffaelli M. (2000). Finger harrowing of durum wheat under different tillage systems. Biological Agriculture and Horticulture, 17, 285-303.

  • Bàrberi P. & Paolini R. (2000). Tackling weed management in organic farming: a matter of applied ecology. Proceedings 4th EWRS Workshop on Physical Weed Control, Elspeet (NL), 20-22 Mar, 3-4.

  • Raffaelli M., Peruzzi A. & Bàrberi P. (2000). Spring-tine harrowing in sunflower and soyabean: results of two-year trials. Proceedings 4th EWRS Workshop on Physical Weed Control, Elspeet (NL), 20-22 Mar, 18.

  • Raffaelli M, Peruzzi A. & Bàrberi P. (2000). Development of a new flaming machine: experimental results on sunflower. Proceedings 4th EWRS Workshop on Physical Weed Control, Elspeet (NL), 20-22 Mar, 48-49.

  • Frondoni U. & Bàrberi P. (2000). Attrezzature per le colture erbacee. Supplemento macchine ecologiche. Il Contoterzista, 5 Suppl., 17-23.

  • Mazzoncini M., Bonari E., Silvestri N., Coli A., Belloni P. & Bàrberi P. (2000). Agronomic and economic evaluation of conventional, low input and organic farming systems in Central Italy. Proceedings 13th International IFOAM Scientific Conference, Basel (CH), 28-31 Aug, 393.

  • Bàrberi P. (2001). Il controllo della flora infestante. In: Problematiche dell'agricoltura italiana. Scenari possibili. Vol. 3: Possibilità evolutive di destinazioni colturali e pacchetti tecnologici, a cura di E. Bonari (coordinatore) e P. Bàrberi; Accademia Nazionale di Agricoltura-Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Ed. Avenue media, Bologna (IT), 99-135.

  • Bàrberi P. (2002). Weed management in organic agriculture: are we addressing the right issues? Weed Research, 42, 176-193.

  • Raffaelli M., Bàrberi P., Peruzzi A. & Ginanni M. (2002). Options for mechanical weed control in string bean – work parameters and crop yield. Proceedings 5th Workshop of the EWRS Working Group on Physical and Cultural Weed Control, Pisa (IT), 11-13 Mar, 119-124.

  • Raffaelli M., Bàrberi P., Peruzzi A. & Ginanni M. (2002). Options for mechanical weed control in grain maize – effects on weeds. Proceedings 5th Workshop of the EWRS Working Group on Physical and Cultural Weed Control, Pisa (IT), 11-13 Mar, 147-152.

  • Raffaelli M., Peruzzi A., Bàrberi P. & Ginanni M. (2002). Options for mechanical weed control in grain maize - work parameters and crop yield. Proceedings 5th Workshop of the EWRS Working Group on Physical and Cultural Weed Control, Pisa (IT), 11-13 Mar, 153-158.

  • Raffaelli M., Bàrberi P, Peruzzi A. & Ginanni M. (2002). Options for mechanical weed control in string bean – effects on weeds. Proceedings 5th Workshop of the EWRS Working Group on Physical and Cultural Weed Control, Pisa (IT), 11-13 Mar, 159-163.

  • Mazzoncini M. & Bàrberi P. (2002). Ricerca: gli obiettivi e il metodo. A.Z. Bio, 2 (7/8), 36-41.

  • Mazzoncini M. & Bàrberi P. (2002). Fertilizzazione e concimazione in agricoltura biologica. A.Z. Bio, 2 (10), 58-64.

  • Bàrberi P. (2002). Weed management in organic agriculture: are we doing it right? Agriculture & Equipment International, 54 (4), 13-15.

  • Bàrberi P., Moonen A.C., Belloni P. & Mazzoncini M. (2003). Optimisation of crop spatial arrangement for cultural weed control in organic pigeon bean (Vicia faba L. var. minor). Preliminary results. Proceedings 7th EWRS Mediterranean Symposium, Adana (TR), 6-9 May, 33-34.

  • Bàrberi P. (2003). Worldwide state and trends in weed research and weed management. Herbologia, 4 (1), 5-12.

  • Bàrberi P. (2003). Preventive and cultural methods for weed management. In: Weed Management for Developing Countries. Addendum 1. Ed. R. Labrada, FAO Plant Production and Protection Paper 120, FAO, Roma (IT), 179-193.

  • Mazzoncini M., Vidal I., Ginanni M., Fraga A., Troncoso H., Risaliti R., Vanni F. & Petri M. (2003). Organic farming effects in the erosion of volcanic soil in Chile: some first results. Proceedings Symposium "25 years Assessment of Erosion", Ghent, Belgium, 25 September.

  • Bàrberi P., Belloni P., Cerrai D., Fontanelli M., Moonen A.C. & Raffaelli M. (2004). Cultural weed control in organic pigeon bean (Vicia faba L. var. minor) through optimisation of crop spatial arrangement. Proceedings 6th Workshop of the EWRS Working Group on Physical and Cultural Weed Control, Lillehammer (NO), 8-10 Mar, 2-7.

  • Melander B. & Bàrberi P. (2004). Physical and cultural weed control in minor crops. Proceedings 4th International Weed Science Congress, Durban (ZA), 19-25 Jun, 14.

  • Mazzoncini M., Bàrberi P., Cerrai D., Rinaudo V. & Belloni P. (2004). Effects of green manure on soil nitrogen availability and crop productivity in a Mediterranean organic farming system. Proceedings Eurosoil 2004, Freiburg (DE), 4-12 Sep.

  • Raffaelli M., Bàrberi P., Peruzzi A. & Ginanni M. (2004). Options for mechanical weed control in string bean. Agricoltura Mediterranea, 134, 92-100.

  • Melander B., Rasmussen I.A. & Bàrberi P. (2005). Integrating Physical and Cultural Methods of Weed Control – Examples from European Research. Weed Science, in press.

  • Raffaelli M., Bàrberi P., Peruzzi A. & Ginanni M. (2005). Mechanical weed control in maize: evaluation of weed harrowing and hoeing systems. Agricoltura Mediterranea, in press.