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Cover Crop Productivity in Contrasting Growing Conditions and Influence on the Subsequent Crop

Wendling, Marina; Büchi, Lucie; Jeangros, Bernard; Walter, Achim and Charles, Raphael (2018) Cover Crop Productivity in Contrasting Growing Conditions and Influence on the Subsequent Crop. In: Abstract Book - ESA2018. XVe European Society for Agronomy Congress (ESA), 27.-31.8.2019, Geneva, Switzerland, Frick, p. 47.

[thumbnail of Abstract] PDF - English (Abstract)

Document available online at: http://www.esa-congress-2018.ch/programme/programme-and-abstract-book/


In arable systems, cover crops provide multiple ecosystem services involved in soil protection and fertility. They can efficiently compete against weeds, control erosion or recycle nutrients. The supply of these services is however largely dependent on cover crop growth as most of the services are related to biomass production. The choice of a cover crop adapted to the growing conditions is thus essential. Growing mixtures instead of sole crops is expected to be a way to overcome variable growing conditions and to insure high biomass production.Different field trials have been conducted from 2013 to 2016 in Nyon, Switzerland to assess cover crop biomass production and stability, and their influence on the following crop. Indian mustard, field pea, black oat and phacelia were sown as sole crops and in mixtures with different diversity levels (2, 3 and 4 species). A mixture of 11 species (50% of legumes and 50% of other species) was also tested. Biomass production was assessed about three months after seeding, just before the seeding of the next main crop, in two 0.5 m × 0.5 m quadrats. For each cover crop, a risk of failure, e.g. the probability of producing less than 3 t/ha (minimal biomass allowing to provide the services expected from cover crops), was estimated. Weed pressure was appraised by weed biomass in quadrats. The yield of the following main crop, here winter wheat, was determined after harvesting with a combine harvester, at wheat maturity, in summer.
Sole crops showed very contrasting performance according to the growing conditions. Pea was the most productive in low yielding conditions with 2 t/ha while other sole crops produced only 0.5 t/ha. Pea was barely more productive in high yielding conditions, reaching only 3 t/ha when cover crop average was 6 t/ha. By contrast, mustard and oat showed high production potential in these conditions, exceeding 7 t/ha. Pea should thus be favoured when the growing conditions are clearly identified as limiting (low N availability), while oat or mustard should be chosen in favourable conditions. However, in general, conditions are hardly predictable. Our results showed that mixtures should be preferred as they were adapted to a wider range of environments than sole crops, performing well regardless of the conditions and resulting in a lower risk of failure than sole crops. The 11-specie mixture revealed that generally 4 to 5 species are sufficient to insure a good performance regardless of the conditions. Regarding cover crop effect on the following crop, we evidenced the importance of high biomass production for efficient weed control and positive influence on crop yield in no till treatments.Our results showed that cover crop mixtures rather than sole crops should be chosen as they insure high biomass production and thus a good supply of ecosystem services. In addition, cover crop cultivation, even for a short period, proved to be paramount to the maintenance of grain yield and soil fertility on the long term, especially in reduced tillage systems.

EPrint Type:Conference paper, poster, etc.
Type of presentation:Paper
Keywords:Sole crops, mixture, biomass, weeds, wheat
Agrovoc keywords:
sole cropping
Subjects: Crop husbandry > Crop combinations and interactions
Crop husbandry > Production systems > Cereals, pulses and oilseeds
Crop husbandry > Weed management
Research affiliation: Switzerland > Agroscope
Switzerland > ETHZ - Agrarwissenschaften
Switzerland > FiBL - Research Institute of Organic Agriculture Switzerland > Knowledge exchange > Events
Switzerland > FiBL - Research Institute of Organic Agriculture Switzerland > Soil
UK > Natural Resources Institute (NRI Uni Greenwich)
Deposited By: Charles, Dr Raphaël
ID Code:34562
Deposited On:18 Feb 2019 17:32
Last Modified:06 Dec 2023 08:07
Document Language:English
Refereed:Not peer-reviewed

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