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Academic Article: Simulating Soil Carbon Dynamics and Crop Production in Organic Farming Systems

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Authors: Massimo Tolomio, Nicola Dal Ferro, Maurizio Borin, and Bruno Basso

Core Objectives

  • To evaluate soil organic carbon (SOC) dynamics in organic farming (OF) topsoil using field data and simulation results.
  • To simulate the long-term organic management in comparison with conventional management
  • To quantify crop residues and organic fertilizers contributions to topsoil OC


  • The adoption of OF is suggested as a way to increase soil organic carbon (Mäder et al., 2002), but requires adaptation of management practices (e.g. mechanical weed control, the sole use of organic fertilizers).
  • Lower yields are usually reported in organic farming (De Ponti et al., 2012). The effects of reduced crop residues inputs on SOC needs to be investigated in a long-term perspective, to better understand C dynamics in OF.
  • Italy is among the European countries with the largest share of OF land (14.5%) and with the higher number of organic producers in 2016 (64,210) (Willer and Lernoud, 2018).


  • SALUS performed well in simulating crop yield and topsoil SOC, on the basis of minimum agronomic management data
  • Crop residues played a major role in building up C stock in the topsoil. In our site, OF could benefit from an increase in crop residues inputs (e.g. including cover crops during non-cropping season)
  • Considerations on the effects of OF on SOC should not be generalized, but evaluated in relation to specific agronomic practices adopted in each site
  • Modeling is a critical tool to capture the interactions between manure, crop residues on SOC and yield

Academic Citation

  • Tolomio, Massimo, Nicola Dal Ferro, Maurizio Borin, and Bruno Basso. 2018. “Simulating Soil Carbon Dynamics and Crop Production in Organic Farming Systems,” November.


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