The agro-ecosystemic benefits of sustainable management in an Italian olive grove
Biotic and abiotic stresses are the main causes of decreased productivity and yield losses for crop species. Conventional agricultural management of fruit orchards (excessive soil tillage, empirical fertilization, burning of pruning material) generates a progressive reduction in organic matter and general soil impoverishment, contributing to agrosystem vulnerability and the appearance of plant disease. The well-being of the plant and the biotic complexity of the whole orchard system are the first obstacles to pathogen diffusion. In this study, we experimented with some agronomic methods aimed at increasing microbiological soil fertility and soil water storage capacity, applying sustainable agronomic management (soil cover by spontaneous vegetation, light and annual pruning and reuse of pruning residues within the orchard, irrigation with treated wastewater). We compared the results of conventional and sustainable fruit orchard managements. The experiment was carried out in a mature olive grove ('Maiatica di Ferrandina') and the two experimental plots (conventional and sustainable) were followed for more than 10 years. Adoption of sustainable agricultural practices increased the soil organic matter content by 1.1% in the 0-40 cm soil layer and the water infiltration rate 10-fold with respect to conventional management. Soil microbiota in the sustainable plot showed higher biomass and biodiversity. The findings demonstrated that the application of sustainable agricultural practices in fruit orchards has positive results in terms of soil fertility and biodiversity, with benefits to the whole agroecosystem stability.
Xiloyannis, C., Palese, A.M., Sofo, A., Mininni, A.N. and Lardo, E. (2018). The agro-ecosystemic benefits of sustainable management in an Italian olive grove. Acta Hortic. 1199, 303-308
organic matter, cover crops, fertigation, biodiversity, water resource