What are the impacts of reduced tillage and crop residue management on the functionning of cultivated water-soil-plant systems ?

Conventional soil tillage in the Walloon region aims at reducing pest and weed development to a minimum level, creating a fine-structured, superficial soil layer that promotes root develoment and incorporating nutrients throughout the soil. Nevertheless, conventional tillage can also have detrimental effects, such as structure destruction, water loss, erosion enhancement, perturbation of biological activity… Alternative tillage techniques (no-, reduced-, strip-till…) have been proposed to compensate for these drawbacks. In addition to the way we till, the retention of surface residues can help conserve soil organic matter and nutrients, decrease water runoff and increase infiltration, decrease evaporation, and control weeds.

Defining appropriate management of the above-ground biomass is a crucial issue on the way to an increased agricultural sustainability. Demands for valorization of crop biomass do not only concern agriculture. Soil organic matter plays an important role with regard to fertility, biological activity, soil structure and stability. Hence, the competition for crop biomass should be carefully considered in order not to endanger the sustainability of the cropping system and the quality of natural resources (soil and water).

Five questions have been identified at this stage, focussing on various compartments of the soil-plant-atmosphere system : the plant, the microbial pool and the soil biota as the living body, and the soil solid, liquid and gaseous phases as physical and chemical environment.

Project 2A

HielImpact of residue management on crop production

PhD student: Marie-Pierre HIEL (marie-pierre.hiel@ulg.ac.be)
Coordinator: Bernard BODSON



This PhD will study the plant behaviour in relation to soil tillage and organic residue management. The evolution across the seasons of potential crop yield, the dynamics of weed populations and the intensity of fungal diseases will be measured under various cropping systems with different tillage methods dedicated to bury the residues from the previous crop and/or from the intercropping and to prepare the implantation of following crop. Read more…

Project 2B

P1030554-kissHow does crop residue management impact the soil microbial community composition?

PhD student: Florine DEGRUNE (florine.degrune@ulg.ac.be)
Contact: Micheline VANDENBOL


This PhD aims at evaluating how different crop residue management impact the bacterial and fungal community composition. The microbial communities composition is assessed using high throughput sequencing (454). The mothur pipeline is used to process the data and multivariate analysis is used to determine the difference in microbial communities between the different soil treatments. Read more…

Project 2C

narguish4Soil infrastructure evolution and its effect on water transfer processes under contrasted tillage systems

PhD student: Nargish PARVIN (nargish.parvin@ulg.ac.be)
Contact: Aurore DEGRE


This PhD is to assess how soil tillage and residue management affect soil architecture at the pedon scale and its effect on soil hydrodynamic behaviour with special emphasis on preferential flows processes. The evolution of soil structure under various cropping systems will be monitored in relation with the tillage tools, pedofauna and root development. At the same time, water content will be monitored in these transects. Dye tracer experiments will be used to map and quantify preferential flows in 2D. Read more…

Project 2 D

Marie2Impact of tillage techniques on spatio-temporal dynamics of soil moisture and solute fluxes under a maize crop

PhD student: Marie CHELIN (mchelin@ulg.ac.be)
Contact: Sarah GARRE


This PhD targets the effects of cover crop and tillage technique on temporal and spatial patterns of soil moisture. The research will establish whether and to which extent the use of cover crops during winter and the tillage method do influence the soil water status and heterogeneity. More specifically, high-resolution non-invasive monitoring of soil water fluxes will be performed as well as repeated assessment of soil hydraulic parameters under four different treatments to quantify changes in (i) evaporation, (ii) infiltration and (iii) water holding capacity. Read more…

Project 2 E

Dynamics of greenhouse gas emissions in response to residue management (AgriGES)

nicoPostdoc: Nicolas Theodorakopoulos (Nicolas.theodorakopoulos@ulg.ac.be)
Contact: Bernard HEINESCH




L’agriculture est l’une des principales sources d’émission de protoxyde d’azote (N2O) et la majeure partie de ce gaz à effet de serre provient de l’activité des microorganismes telluriques. Il convient donc de s’interroger sur l’impact des pratiques agricoles qui tendent à limiter ou au contraire augmenter les émissions de N2O. L’objectif de l’étude que je mène actuellement est d’analyser, via des approches moléculaires, l’incidence des pratiques agricoles sur les communautés microbiennes en regard avec les émissions de N2O qui seront mesurées sur le terrain (chambres de mesures en continue). Les technologies actuelles permettent d’identifier les microorganismes dans les sols (Ion torrent) mais aussi de savoir par quelles « processus» (PCR quantitative) ces derniers vont contribuer à la production de N2O et donc potentiellement au réchauffement de notre planète.