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

David Navarro-Miró*, José M. Blanco-Moreno, Corrado Ciaccia, Elena Testani, Ileana Iocola , Laura Depalo, Giovanni Burgio, Hanne Lakkenborg Kristensen, Margita Hefner, Kalvi Tamm, Ingrid Bender, Alessandro Persiani , Mariangela Diacono, Francesco Montemurro, Koen Willekens , Héléne Védie, Martina Bavec, Martina Robacer, Donatienne Arlotti, Pauline DeltourStefaan De Neve, Mesfin Tsegaye Gebremikael, Lourdes Chamorro, Berta Caballero-López, Alejandro Pérez-Ferrer, Stefano Canali, Francesc Xavier Sans

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


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 the 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. 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 11 organic vegetable field trials conducted in seven European countries over a period of 2 years to test for general trends. 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 were observed compared to T-GM. 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.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Applied Ecology
Pages (from-to)1026-1037
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022


  • energetic efficiency
  • ground beetles
  • potentially recyclable energy
  • rove beetles
  • spiders
  • weed control
  • yield


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