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Comparing crop rotations between organic and conventional farming

Abstract : Cropland use activities are major drivers of global environmental changes and of farming system resilience. Rotating crops is a critical land-use driver, and a farmers' key strategy to control environmental stresses and crop performances. Evidence has accumulated that crop rotations have been dramatically simplified over the last 50 years. In contrast, organic farming stands as an alternative production way that promotes crop diversification. However, our understanding of crop rotations is surprisingly limited. In order to understand if organic farming would result in more diversified and multifunctional landscapes, we provide here a novel, systematic comparison of organic-to-conventional crop rotations at the global scale based on a meta-analysis of the scientific literature, paired with an independent analysis of organic-to-conventional land-use. We show that organic farming leads to differences in land-use compared to conventional: overall, crop rotations are 15% longer and result in higher diversity and evener crop species distribution. These changes are driven by a higher abundance of temporary fodders, catch and cover-crops, mostly to the detriment of cereals. We also highlighted differences in organic rotations between Europe and North-America, two leading regions for organic production. This increased complexity of organic crop rotations is likely to enhance ecosystem service provisioning to agroecosystems.
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Pietro Barbieri, Sylvain Pellerin, Thomas Nesme. Comparing crop rotations between organic and conventional farming. Scientific Reports, Nature Publishing Group, 2017, 7 (1), pp.1-10. ⟨10.1038/s41598-017-14271-6⟩. ⟨hal-02620024⟩

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