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The concurrent assessment of agronomic, ecological, and environmental variables enables better choice of agroecological service crop termination management

Cite this dataset

Navarro-Miró, David et al. (2022). The concurrent assessment of agronomic, ecological, and environmental variables enables better choice of agroecological service crop termination management [Dataset]. Dryad.


1. Although organic farming was originally promoted as an alternative farming system to address agronomic, environmental, and ecological issues, its conventionalisation has led to an intensification and specialisation of production. In light of this, several studies have questioned the environmental benefits of organic farming as well as its agronomic viability. Thus, there is a need to improve organic vegetable systems to reduce their environmental impact without affecting their productivity. To tackle this challenge, European farmers and researchers have recently started to focus on agroecological service crops (ASCs). However, few studies have simultaneously evaluated the agronomic, environmental, and ecological aspects of ASC management under different European pedo-climatic conditions.

2. We evaluated effects of the ASC management strategies: no-till roller crimping (NT-RC) and green manuring (T-GM) on cropping system performance using agronomic, environmental, and ecological indicators, to exemplify the need for multidimensional analysis to understand management implications for addressing environmental and agronomic challenges. We combined the results from eleven organic vegetable field trials conducted in seven European countries over a period of two years to test for general trends.

3. Our results provide solid evidence that NT-RC management across different pedo-climatic conditions in Europe enhances the activity density of ground and rove beetles, and improves both the potential energy recycling within the system and weed control. However, in NT-RC plots lower cash crop yield and quality, energetic efficiency of production, and activity density of spiders was observed compared to T-GM.

4. Synthesis and applications: Multidimensional analyses using agronomic, environmental, and ecological indicators are required to understand the implications of agricultural management in agroecosystem functioning. Introducing agroecological service crops combined with the use of no-till roller crimping is a promising strategy for improving agronomic performance (e.g., fewer weeds) and reducing environmental (e.g., increasing the potentially recyclable energy), and ecological (e.g., enhancing the activity density of beneficial taxa such as ground and rove beetles) impacts. However, our study also indicates a need for agronomic and environmental improvements while promoting a wider acceptance of this strategy.29-Nov-2021 --

Usage notes

Dataset specifications: 

This dataset gathers data from 11 organic arable vegetable field trials located in Belgium (BE), Denmark (DK), Estonia (EE), France (FR), Italy (IT), Slovenia (SI), and Spain (ES). Two parallel field experiment types were carried out during two crop cycles. Field experiment type A (FtA) involved the introduction of cold-rainy season ASCs into the crop rotation, followed by a spring-summer cash crop. Field experiment type B (FtB) was performed only at the IT and ES locations where the Mediterranean climatic conditions enabled introduction of the ASCs in the warm-dry season (i.e., summer), followed by the transplantation of an autumn-winter cash crop. 

This dataset contains: 

Ecological and environmental indicators: Activity density of ground (Carabidae) and rove (Staphylinidae) beetles and spiders (Araneae); Beta-glucosidase enzyme activity assessment; Nitrogen leaching potential measured by soil mineral nitrogen assessment at cash crop harvest; and the potentially recyclable energy use efficiency indicator (PRE-EUE) (Navarro-Miró, Iocola, et al., 2019). 

Agronomic indicators: Cash crop marketable yield, and the cash crop quality; The energy efficiency of the marketable production was determined by the energy-use efficiency indicator (M-EUE) (Barut, Ertekin, & Karaagac, 2011). Weed control was analysed by determining weed density (individuals m-2). 

Information about Repetition/block and sample can be found in Appendix "S1. Trial details". Repetition/block and sample are sometimes not included because the measure under consideration has been taken at higher level (i.e., ASC, termination, plot).


ERA-Net CORE Organic Plus Funding Bodies, partners in the European Union’s FP7 research and innovation program, Award: 618107

DNM was funded by a PhD grant from the Spanish Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte, Award: FPU14/03868