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Paul Mäder

Paul Mäder
(Dr. phil, Dipl. Ing. Agr. ETH)

Department of Soil Sciences
Head of Department
Ackerstrasse 113
CH-5070 Frick

Phone +41 62 865-7232
Fax +41 62 865-7273

Soil Sciences: Research areas

Long-term experiments

During the past 50 years, the continuous development of production techniques and strategies in organic farming has resulted in increased yields. Nevertheless there is significant scope for optimization and to systematically refine the concept of eco-functional intensification within organic farming systems in developed and less developed regions alike. Long-term experiments provide the platform for research pursuing the main questions:

  • How productive are various low-external-input, organic and soil-conserving farming systems and techniques compared to both high-input and traditional ones in the long-term?
  • How can conservation tillage practices be taken up in organic crop rotations without the use of chemical nitrogen and herbicides?


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Soil quality and functions

Soils provide essential ecosystem services for human well-being and ecosystem functioning, e.g. food, water and greenhouse gas regulation including carbon storage, and biodiversity conservation. Most of the soil’s ecosystem functions are closely related to soil organic matter (SOM) and its beneficial impacts, such as the improvement of soil structure and fertility of agricultural soils. They contribute to plant productivity and health, water holding and retention capacity, and resistance against drought and extreme weather events. An intact soil is of particular importance for organic farming systems because crop production in such systems relies on the nutrient transformation processes catalysed by soil biota.

We explore the following questions:

  • How do farming systems imping on soil quality in the long term?
  • What are the effects of new technologies such as genetically modified crops, bio-control organisms and soil improvers such as biochar on essential soil functions?


Andreas Fliessbach

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Plant symbioses

Plant symbioses form the interface between plant roots and soil, and are extremely important for ecosystem services such as nutrient acquisition, soil structure formation and pathogen suppression. This area of research is gaining importance for future sustainable farming and the transition towards eco-functional intensification worldwide. Within this theme cluster the following questions are addressed:

  • How can plant microbial symbioses (mycorrhiza (AMF) and plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR)) be managed practicably and efficiently?
  • How can they be used to improve phosphorus efficiency and other important beneficial services?


Cécile Thonar

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Climate impact of organic agriculture

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and boosting capacity to adapt to climate change is of key importance for the sustainable development of future farming systems. This needs to be addressed by implementing the concept of eco-functional intensification. In this regard the key questions are:

  • What is the climate change mitigation potential of organic farming systems?
  • Can new innovations such as biochar contribute to climate change mitigation?
  • How to improve the capacity of sustainable farming systems to adapt to climate change?


Andreas Gattinger

Further information

Organic farming and climate change

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In addition to their research activities, individual team members of the Soil Sciences Department contribute their knowledge to other projects conducted by FiBL, Bio Suisse and other organizations. They assess, for example, the fertilizers included in the Bio Suisse lists of permitted agricultural inputs and Bud-labelled auxiliary inputs, or they represent Bio Suisse in official committees. The FiBL laboratory carries out analyses for all the FiBL departments and groups as well as microbial biomass analyses for external clients. 

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