Lucie Büchi, Marina Wendling, Camille Amossé, Magdalena Necpalova og Raphaël Charles
This study was funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation in the framework of the National Research Program ‘ Sustainable Use of Soil as a Resource ’, and of the joint programming initiative Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change.
Eight cover crop treatments were set up as subtreatments in a long term experiment in Switzerland. Cover crops were cultivated for a short two-month period between two winter wheats. Substantial differences in cover crop growth were observed depending on cover crop species. In all tillage treatments, high cover crop biomass production allowed to supress weed biomass compared to the no cover crop control. Wheat grain yield was higher in the minimum tillage than in the plough treatment. In the no till treatment, wheat yield was notably low, except in the field pea treatments, where wheat yield reached values similar to that observed in the plough and minimum tillage treatments. In addition, these differences in biomass production translated into important differences in nutrient inputs, and even in soil nutrient concentration in some cases. Long term simulations showed that cover crop cultivation could increase drastically soil organic carbon and total nitrogen, especially in reduced tillage treatments. Altogether, these results demonstrated that the presence of a well-developed cover crop, even for only two months, allows to sustain wheat yield in a no till treatment. It impacts also soil fertility and nutrient cycling. This study shows that an accurate use and management of cover crops, in interaction with tillage reduction, could maintain yield and improve soil fertility in the long term.
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