Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Cover crops in perennial agriculture (#journal)

Cover crops to increase soil microbial diversity and mitigate decline in perennial agriculture. A review

Perennial agriculture is prone to declining productivity due to negative plant-soil feedback. Although cover crops are already used in these systems for other reasons, their capacity to influence soil biota is unexploited. This article examines the role of plant diversity and identity on plant-soil feedback. We conclude that (1) increasing plant diversity increases soil microbial diversity, minimizing the proliferation of soil-borne pathogens; (2) populations of beneficial microbes can be increased by increasing plant functional group richness, (3) brassicas suppress fungal pathogens and promote disease-suppressive bacteria; (4) native plants may further promote beneficial soil microbiota; and (5) frequent tillage, herbicide use, and copper fungicides can harm populations of beneficial microbes. Non-crop vegetation management is a viable and cost-effective means of minimizing crop decline in perennial monocultures.

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