Cultivation/seeding techniques: Is mulch tillage on the rise?

The Kleffmann Group conduct annually reoccurring studies and asks farmers about their seed and crop protection inputs as well as the type of cultivation which is associated with the crop. Please see the following latest results, profiling the cultivations associated with crops harvested in 2016.

In recent times, the focus, especially in Germany, was on soil erosion control, the conservation of soil structure and the savings from reduced cultivations giving rise to reduced diesel consumption. All of which favoured simplified seeding processes. Now, however, the increased application of glyphosate and other crop protection products, which tends to go hand in hand with reduced cultivations, is being criticised. The growing requirements on field hygiene, forced by growing limitations in crop protection will occupy the farmer in the next years and will increasingly influence his decision-making about the choice of cultivation.

Before seeding the question arises for many farmers whether it is possible to forgo ploughing. Some of the alternatives to soil inversion are minimum tillage (up to 14 cm), deep tillage (from 15 cm), or mulch tillage and the direct drilling which completely forgoes a cultivation.

Every year the Kleffmann Groups asks farmers about their seed and crop protection inputs as well as the kind of cultivation which is associated with the crop. In 2016, 2,621 cereal farmers, 2,137 maize farmers and 1,116 farmers growing oilseed rape in Germany have been asked.

1. Simplified cultivation in the field crops in Germany by season

Looking at the results it is obvious that the proportion of cultivation without ploughing clearly increased from 2006 to 2013. In Germany, the proportion was at 48% in 2016 [Fig. 1]. In oilseed rape the sowing for harvest in 2016 was processed by 54% mulch tillage and in maize it amounted for at least 35% of the cultivated area. Putting aside others due to unfavourable weather conditions a slight backward trend can be noted in winter oilseed rape and winter cereals since 2014.

The cultivation underlies many different influencing factors. Supporters of the cultivation without ploughing specifically mention the improvement of the soil structure and the ease of movement, the improved protection from erosion and the soil consolidation, preservation of soil moisture as well as the reduction of working steps and the thereby linked costs for operating resources as the main advantages. The latter are especially relevant for larger farms. Additionally, there are legal requirements which prohibit soil inversion cultivation in certain hillside situations.

2. Simpliefied cultivation in the field crops according to farm size in Germany 2016

On farms of less than 100 ha the proportion of mulch tillage ranges from 27 to 33%, depending on the crop. With an increasing farm size, the cultivation by plough clearly decreases. In case of maize, the proportion of mulch tillage at farm sizes above 500 ha amounts to over 50%. Looking at oilseed rape and cereal, already farms with a size from 200 ha onwards use mulch tillage at more than 60% of the area [Fig. 2]. In Eastern Germany it is due to bigger farm size structures and thereby linked to cost advantages that mulch tillage is being practiced much more frequently. In general, non-soil inversion aw is used up to 25% more in Eastern Germany in the crops cereal, maize and oilseed rape in comparison to Western Germany [Fig. 3] .

Simplified cultivation in the field crops in Germany comparison West/East 2016


Kira Meiß, Project Manager Amis®, Kleffmann Group