Water Stewardship on the Ground: EWS travels to Amblainville, France
Oct 21st, 2014 |
EWS joined members of the European Crop Protection Association (ECPA) on 8 October 2014 for a farm visit in Amblainville, France. Hosted by farmer Alfred Gässler, the visitors explored innovations in farming techniques contributing to soil enrichment, biodiversity and better water management. Mr.Gässler understands soil to be a measure of the farm’s capital, determining its long term viability and profitability.
Over the past decade, Mr. Gässler has adopted direct seeding farming techniques and the use of cover crops in order to enrich the land’s soil quality and to increase its ability to retain moisture. In direct seeding, the soil is not tilled before planting, thus visitors saw a mix of cover crops with a network of roots deep in the soil providing stability, nutrients and water penetration at depth, as well as high biological activity (see below).
Mr. Gässler acknowledged that the transition to non-till required a shift in all aspects of running his farm; from crop and cover crop selection and sequence, to planting and harvesting schedules. While this transition had to be carefully managed to avoid financial risks, he has seen an increase in organic matter, reduced his consumption of diesel and nitrogen fertilizers, halved his consumption of pesticides and saved 3-4 irrigation cycles due to improved water retention in the soil; all while achieving higher yields.
By contrast, neighboring tilled fields had visibly more compacted soils, where rain was pooling at the bottom of the slopes and which would undoubtedly lead to runoff down the nearby country roads during wet months, carrying soil, nutrients and residual pesticides with it.
Using his experience, Mr. Gässler provides consulting to other farmers on transitioning to no-till and adopting cover crops. Innovative farming techniques such as those displayed on Mr. Gässler’s farm exemplify the ways in which stewardship practices can lead to both sustainability and higher profitability at farm level.