Sustainability, Vol. 10, Pages 2213: Soil Fertility Management by Transition Matrices and Crop Rotation: On Spatial and Dynamic Aspects in Programming of Ecosystem Services
Sustainability doi: 10.3390/su10072213
This paper deals with crop rotation as a method to improve soil fertility and control pests from an economic point of view. It outlines a new framework for modelling of more sustainable decision-making of farmers under the auspices of ecosystem services. It is intended for practical application in extension and farmer communication to show values of rotations referring to natural capital. In the past farmers created complex rotations to benefit from ecological processes which enabled them to control natural pests (at least partly), to build soil fertility on recycling of organics (humus formation), and to promote pollination (including wild bees and other insects) and water retention (diverse water requests of different crops). Farmers which were accommodating cropping orders in small parcels of fields used long lists of crop sequences and offered mixed farming systems: this was a major feature of agriculture. Cropping orders evolved from necessity and were followed as rules. Today we are faced with large fields and monoculture, instead, and ecosystem services are diminished. Usually, attempts to recognize economic pay-offs from rotation through modelling are meagre because of complexity. We address the issue of complexity by suggesting a new flexible type of modelling crop rotations (dynamic optimization) which condenses ecological information into matrices. A newly-hosted transfer matrix shall delineate the impacts of cropping patterns in period t to fertility of land in t + 1. Categorizing different states of nature (which have to be brought in line with farmers&rsquo; knowledge of externalities), it can be implemented in models on rotation decision.