Increasing soil organic carbon (tightly linked to organic matter) improves soil structure and, thus, water infiltration and the amount of water that a soil may keep and provide to plants. Together with the use of adapted crops and varieties, are the main ways to adapt arable cropping systems to climate change. Manure application, reducing soil tillage and the incorporation of cover crops contribute to the increasing of soil organic carbon.
IRTA (research institute on agriculture and agrifood industry in Catalonia) is carrying out a Case Study (CS6) within the SIRAM project. Activities focus on the performance of winter rainfed (wheat, barley and rapeseed) and summer irrigated (maize) arable crops under reduced tillage practices and the application of different types of manure (Figure 1). Cover crops (mustard, ryegrass, vetch,…) are also used during winter (Figure 2), after irrigated maize, to prevent nitrate leaching and to protect soil from intensive rainfall events, thus increasing nutrient use efficiency and enhancing soil quality through the ulterior incorporation of crops into the soil. These activities take place at IRTA-Mas Badia Agricultural Experimental Station, located in La Tallada d’Empordà (Girona; Catalonia), northeast of the Iberian Peninsula.
The main aim of CS6 is to provide useful information on regenerative agriculture to arable farmers to adapt agricultural practices to a changing climate (warmer and with more severe rainfall events: drought and intensive rainfall events), while maintaining or increasing crop yield and quality and enhancing soil quality.
Figure 1. Dairy manure and reduced tillage field experiment on rainfed winter crops as seen in June 2022.
Figure 2. Cover crops after irrigated maize as seen in November 2022.