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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

Comparisons of organic and non-organic production systems

Efficient production combined with the conservation of natural resources charts the way for sustainable agriculture. Long-term plot trials as well as the monitoring of agricultural holdings provide valuable baseline data for agronomic and ecological assessments of organic and non-organic agricultural production systems. They also make an important contribution to the development of agriculture in general. FiBL has thirty years of experience in systems-oriented research.


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Reduced soil cultivation

During the past 50 years, the continuous evolution of production techniques and strategies in organic farming has resulted in increased yields. Nevertheless there is significant scope for optimization in organic production. Advances in agri-technology allow organic farmers to use shallow soil cultivation instead of regular deep ploughing. However, many practical issues remain which need to be addressed in field trials in a site-appropriate manner in order to optimize this type of cropping.


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Climate change and organic farming

Organic farming can help to mitigate climate change at many levels. Examples include:

  • Increased humus formation with the aid of multi-annual grass-clover leys and applications of organic fertilizers such as farmyard manure, slurry, composts etc.

  • No applications of industrial fertilizers and pesticides, the production of which consumes large quantities of fossil fuels

  • Livestock numbers linked to the acreage of arable land available to the holding

  • High proportion of roughage in livestock feed

  • High proportion of nitrogen-fixing legumes in crop rotations.

In particular, soil cultivation methods that do not involve turning the soil (i.e. no “classic”-style ploughing) result in the accumulation of organic matter in the upper soil strata.

The climate projects carried out by FiBL’s Soil Sciences Group address, for example, the following questions:

  • In which way and to what extent can organic farming contribute to climate change mitigation? (Sustainability analyses, life cycle analyses on commercial farms; desk reviews of publications and meta-analyses of (published) datasets)

  • How can these contributions be measured and remunerated? (Field trials, climate certificates)

  • How can the climate footprint of organic farming be reduced even further? (e.g. by fully developing reduced tillage, optimizing fertilizer use strategies, distributing information).


Andreas Gattinger

Further information

Organic farming and climate change

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Plant symbioses

Plants often live in symbiosis with fungi (mycorrhiza) or soil bacteria which colonize their roots. Their competitiveness and their specific traits help the host plants to increase their uptake of nutrients or to combat pathogens. The right cropping techniques (crop rotation, careful soil cultivation) and inoculation of soils or seeds help foster such symbioses in a targeted manner. This area of research is set to gain in importance for future sustainable farming, be it in Europe or the southern hemisphere, especially where the use of farm inputs (such as fertilizers) is limited. The Soil Sciences Group’s symbiosis projects address, for example, the following questions:

  • Does mixed cropping of maize with a variety of undersown crops enhance the development of mycorrhiza?

  • Is it possible to optimize the symbioses between soya beans and micro-organisms in the European climate with a view to improving the soya beans’ protein content?

  • How do established indicators of soil fertility develop in response to regulating plant diseases with the aid of beneficial soil bacteria?

  • Moreover, FiBL participates in a cooperative project of Indian and Swiss partners in which microbial preparations are fully developed for commercial application and assessed in terms of their impact on crop yield and crop quality.


Cécile Thonar

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Risk indicators of soil contamination

Intact and functional soils are of great importance in organic farming. For this reason we study the impacts of chemical and biological products on soil fertility and bio-geochemical cycles, and we investigate how food safety can be assured on contaminated soils. The obj

  • To develop indicators of soil contamination

  • To gain knowledge on the impacts of pesticide contamination on soil quality

  • To gain knowledge on the impacts of potential contamination with bio-control organisms on soil quality

  • To record potential effects of genetically modified plants on soil quality

  • To develop options for the safe production of food on soils contaminated with pesticides.


Paul Mäder

Ongoing projects

    No database entries available.

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In addition to their research activities, individual team members of the Soil Sciences Group 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 Groups as well as microbial biomass analyses for external clients. In its areas of expertise, e.g. the implementation and evaluation of field trials, the Soil Sciences Group also advises other FiBL Groups.

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