Eleven-year results on yields and apparent balances of organic matter and nitrogen (N) are reported for soft and durum wheat crops grown in the BIOSYST long-term experiment for the comparison between an organic and a conventional low-input system in Central Italy. The N supply to organic wheat consisted of 40 kg N ha– 1 as poultry manure plus the supposed residual N left by green manures carried out before the preceding summer vegetable, while the N supply to conventional wheat consisted of 80 kg N ha–1 as mineral fertilisers, split in two applications of 40 kg ha–1 each, at tillering and pre-shooting. In every year, above ground biomass and N accumulation of each wheat species, including weeds, and the partitioning between grain yield and crop residues were determined. Apparent dry matter and N balances were calculated at the end of each crop cycle by taking into account the amounts of dry matter and N supplied to the system as fertilisers, and those removed with grain yield. Soft wheat yielded more than durum wheat. For both species, grain yield and protein content were more variable across years and generally lower in the organic than in the conventional system. In both systems, grain yield of both species resulted negatively correlated with fall-winter rainfall, likely for its effect on soil N availability. Both species caused a lower return of biomass and a higher soil N depletion in the organic than in the conventional system. Our experiment confirmed that winter wheat can help exploit the soil N availability and reduce N leaching in fall winter, especially after summer vegetables, but in stockless or stock-limited organic systems it needs to be included in rotations where soil fertility is restored by fall winter green manures to be carried out before summer crops.
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