Geographical description

The Danish site centered in the Municipality of Viborg, and the Region of Central Denmark where our main Agricultural Research Centre and the Aarhus University, Department of Agroecology is also situated. From here we can draw on extensive long-term data from our field stations (see below), and nearby agricultural landscape study sites, from where data collection has been coordinated in the NitroEurope EU integrated project (2007-2011), the MEA_scope EU strategic research project (2004-2007) etc. and and series of other research projects (1994-present).

The Danish site represents the most agriculture and livestock intensive western parts of Denmark, with extensive data available for upscaling and generalization. The area is dominated by loamy moraines (about 40-70 m above sea level), with agriculture and rotation cropping systems as the dominating land use. The climate is temporal coastal with significant surplus rainfall, especially outside the main growth season. Moreover, for the studies we will include our very near collaboration with the Danish Farmers extension services (www.seges.dk) and the strong local farmers associations.

Pedo-climatic zone
Dominated by sandy-loamy soils, with some peat soils. Situated on the border between the atlantic and the continental biogeographical region, Atlantic North climate. Some sandy soils are irrigated, and we have data on both irrigated and non-irrigated conditions.

Cropping systems

Cropping systems
About 80% of the agricultural area is dominated by winter cereals in rotation with winter rape at pig and cash crop farms, and in rotation with forage crops at dairy and cattle farms. About 10-20% permanent grasslands, mainly in river valleys.

Cropping intensity
Both conventional (about 92% of the area) and organic farming (8%). Intensive use of livestock manure (especially on the about 60% of the area with livestock farms), with precision fertlisation of slurry and fertlisers. Good examples from precision farming.

Types of crop
Winter cereals in rotation with winter rape at pig and cash crop farms (mainly winter wheat, 25% of total area), and in rotation with forage crops at dairy and cattle farms (mainly grassland in rotation, 5-10%, and fodder maize, 5-10%). About 10-20% permanent grasslands, mainly in river valleys.

Management of soil, water, nutrients and pests
Strict norms on fertilizer application (18% below economic optimum), and documentation of nutrient efficient crop rotations.
Irrigation widespread on the most sandy soils, and cropping systems with for e.g. potatoes or forage crops. 
Most soils are ploughed but minimum tillage are practiced.

Soil improving cropping system and techniques currently used
Examples on succesful minimum tillage, and soil incorporation of straw and cover crops (maybe strip harvest).
More use of grasslands to prevent nutrient losses and erosion. Examples on Short Rotation Coppice energy crops.

 Straw incorporation  Straw incorporation2
  Incorporation of straw in soils with combinations of after crops at The Askov Experimental Research station.

 Problems that cause yield loss or increased costs

Loss in organic Matter (primarily caused by ploughing and other soil tillage)
Soil Compaction (primarily caused by heavy machinery for instance for slurry application).
Erosion (especially a problem in cereals and maize)
Severe nutrient losses (N and P) to the environment (especially from livestock farms)

The yield gaps are up to 40% for irrigated winter cereals and about 20% for non-irrigated. About the same or less
for maize, and less for grasslands.

External drivers and factors

Institutional and political drivers
The main institutional and political drivers are legislation and the implementation hereof. Especially in relation to 1) the Danish targets for a fossil free society by 2020, and the Danish commitments to the Kyoto protocol article 34 about documentation of carbon pooling in soils etc. (this e.g. relates to the present Danish practice of using straw for energy), and 2) The implementation of the water framework directive with targets for significantly reduced nutrient losses and soil erosion. Finally, there is a political target (3) to double the organically farmed area. Moreover, the farmers organizations promote low tillage systems (without or with very little ploughing). And
organic farmers promote systems with special emphasis on soil fertility.

Societal drivers
Among consumers there is a concern for sustainable production. This includes a concern for the large exports of protein from the world market, and thereby a demand for more homegrown crops, which again I most cases would mean a shift towards more balances soil fertility and carbon management. Denmark is among the countries with the highest demand and supply of organic products, driving an agenda towards production systems better integrating soil fertility protection. With a high livestock density, there is a high demand for systems with little odour and little ammonia losses, including technologies for low los manure handling.

Bio-physical drivers
More than 60% of the total Danish land area is agriculture and from that about 80% is for the present in rotation. This is thereby one of the most intensively used soil systems in the world, and conversion to systems with more low tillage and less land in rotation would have a significant potential for mitigation of problems related. With climate change more rainfall is expected (especially during winters) and more extreme events (including summer drought and heavy rainstorms); this drives the demand for adapted cropping and soil management systems. Especially in soils with a high clay and loam content, there is severe risk for soil fertility if the carbon content is reduced (measured by the Dexter index), and adaptions in cropping patterns, addition of biomass C to soils and sustainable soil management techniques are demanded.