Advanced conservative and organic/integrated farming systems will be designed and tested within three most representative scenarios in our country:
- arable field crops;
- field vegetables;
- tree fruit orchards.
Innovative machines for cover-crop termination, minimum tillage, strip-tillage, direct seeding/transplanting and physical weed control will be made “ex-novo” on purpose or optimized for each scenario. Each research unit will test innovative machines on its own scenario, according to the following common scheme, including three different cropping systems to be compared:
- Control (INT): integrated farming system (herbicides and agrochemicals allowed, ordinary soil tillage, no cover crop use);
- Intermediate organic (ORG): organic farming system which includes reduced soil tillage, the use of cover crops, preventive and direct non-chemical weed control methods;
- Advanced organic (ORG+): deep integration between organic farming and conservative techniques. It includes a permanent green cover of the soil, no-tillage or strip-tillage, physical weed control, the use of cover crops either as living or dead mulches.
The study of the overall sustainability of the three systems will include the following assessments:
- Agronomical (i.e. yield, NP uptake, weed development);
- Environmental and energetic: greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, C and N balance, soil quality conservation, biological nitrogen fixation, water availability in the soil, Life Cycle Assessment (LCA);
- Produce quality: in both orchard and field vegetable scenarios an advanced electronic system will be tested in order to assess and map the spatial and temporal variability of fruits/berries in response to treatments. Furthermore, the quality of fruits and vegetables will be assessed in order to understand the effect of the different treatments on nutraceutical properties induced by the presence of phytochemicals.