Flood protection through organic farming

Better infiltration of the floors

Environmental toxins BMU / H.-G. Oed
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Scientists have shown that organic farming protects against floods better than traditional agriculture. The decisive factor is the better infiltration performance of sustainably managed soils. Because in conventional soils, water accumulates much faster. Their lesser humus content, insufficient soil revitalization and mechanical compaction are to blame.

Scientists at the Institute of Plant Nutrition and Soil Science and the Institute of Organic Farming at the Federal Agricultural Research Center (FAL) are investigating the relationships between physical, chemical and biological soil parameters and the infiltration (infiltration performance of soils) on different scales. It is known from numerous studies, among other FAL institutes, that plow-less ("conservative") tillage in conventional farms can significantly contribute to increasing the infiltration. On organic farms, however, a number of other factors have a positive effect on infiltration. With more favorable conditions for the formation of "biopores", created by the activity of soil organisms, especially earthworms, organically managed arable soils have approximately twice as high infiltration rates under otherwise the same conditions as conventionally cultivated soils.

Three years of organic farming improves the soil

By cultivating perennial arable forage (eg clover grass) and catch crops, as well as optimally feeding organic fertilizers, the humus content in organically managed soils is generally higher than in conventionally cultivated soils. By avoiding mechanical interventions in the soil (dormancy due to perennial field crops, conservation tillage strategies), a soil structure with improved regulatory functions (increased water infiltration into the soil profile) sets in relatively quickly. This positive effect was already evident after three years of organic farming on the experimental areas of the FAL Institute for Organic Farming in Trenthorst (Schleswig-Holstein).

Given the devastating flood events of the recent past, preserving a high infiltration rate typical for the location can certainly be regarded as one of the most important non-product-related benefits of agriculture. The promotion of organic farming should therefore also be sought as an effective ecological compensatory measure for anthropogenic sealants.

World Water Day

Every year on the 22nd of March the World Water Day takes place. On the one hand, water represents a vital but also a life-threatening element for humanity. This year, the UN has focused on "water and natural disasters" in order to draw attention to the consequences of the worldwide natural catastrophes. The number of momentous floods has been higher in the last decade than in the previous decades. Only a few countries are free of flood disasters. In Germany, the flood of the Elbe River has destroyed entire cities and New Zealand is currently suffering from extreme floods. display

(idw - Federal Research Center for Agriculture (FAL), 09.03.2004 - AHE)