Nitrogen turnover on organic and conventional mixed farms


Abstract
Separate focus on crop fertilization or feeding practices inadequately describes nitrogen (N) loss from mixed dairy farms because of (1) interaction between animal and crop production and between the production system and the manager, and (2) uncertainties of herd N production and crop N utilization. Therefore a systems approach was used to study N turnover and N efficiency on 16 conventional and 14 organic private Danish farms with mixed animal (dairy) and crop production. There were significant differences in N surplus at the farm level (242 kg. N/ha. vs. 124 kg. N/ha. on conventional and organic dairy farms respectively) with a correlation between stocking rate and N surplus. N efficiency was calculated as the output of N in animal products divided by the net N import in fodder, manure and fertilizer. N turnover in herd and individual crops calculated on selected farms showed differences in organic and conventional crop N utilization. This is explained via a discussion of the rationality behind the current way of planning the optimum fertilizer application in conventional agriculture. The concept of marginal N efficiency is insufficient for correcting problems of N loss from dairy farms. Substantial reductions in N loss from conventional mixed dairy farms is probably unlikely without lower production intensity. The concept of mean farm unit N efficiency might be a way to describe the relation between production and N loss to facilitate regulation. This concept is linked to differing goals of agricultural development—i.e. intensification and separation vs. extensification and integration. It is discussed how studies in private farms—using organic farms as selected critical cases—can demonstrate possibilities for balancing production and environmental concern.
Keywords nitrogen balance  nitrogen loss  efficiency  fertilization  environment  dairy farms  intensity  system modelling
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DOI 10.1007/BF02286400
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The Morality Behind Sustainability.Jeffrey Burkhardt - 1989 - Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 2 (2):113-128.
The Morality Behind Sustainability.Jeffrey Burkhardt - 1989 - Journal of Agricultural Ethics 2 (2):113-128.
Economics and Energetics of Organic and Conventional Farming.David Pimentel - 1993 - Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 6 (1):53-60.

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