Crucifer-legume cover crop mixtures provide effective sulphate catch crop and sulphur green manure services
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Background and aims
Crucifers grown as cover crops are known to reduce sulphate leaching (S catch-crop service) and release large amounts of mineral sulphate for the subsequent cash crop once incorporated into the soil (S green-manure service). Crucifer-legume cover crop mixtures are effective to obtain high nitrogen related services, but few data exist on their performances for S-related services. Our study aimed to assess performances of a wide variety of bispecific crucifer-legume mixtures designed to provide soil S catch-crop and S green-manure services.
A two-year field experiment was conducted at two sites near Toulouse, France (silt clay loam soil) and Orléans, France (sandy loam soil) in which cultivars from eight crucifer species and nine legume species were tested as sole and bispecific cover crops.
Crucifer-legume mixtures and crucifer sole cover crops provided the same level of S catch-crop service (12 kg S ha−1), significantly higher than that of legume sole cover crops (4 kg S ha−1). Similarly, crucifer-legume mixtures provided almost the same level of S green-manure service (5.5 kg S ha−1) as crucifer sole cover crops (6.5 kg S ha−1).
Our results demonstrate the compatibility and complementarity of certain crucifer and legume species when grown together to provide S and N catch-crop and green-manure services. For a same cover crop species no strong cultivar effect has been highlighted in our growing conditions.
KeywordsCover crop Sulphate catch crop Sulphur green manure Intercropping Interaction Brassicaceae-Fabaceae mixture
This study was part of the CRUCIAL project, which was financially supported by the French Ministry of Agriculture (CASDAR project no. C-2013-05) and the Occitanie Region (CLE project no. 13053068). The authors would like to thank Annick Basset for technical assistance at La Vannelière research site of the seed company Jouffray Drillaud and for her expert advice in selecting cover crop mixtures for the project. We also thank Cedric Monprofit from RAGT Semences for his expert advice in selecting crucifer cover crops. We thank François Perdrieux and Gaël Rametti for their effective technical help at the Domaine de Lamothe site of INP-EI Purpan, and Eric Lecloux and Didier Raffaillac for their support in sampling plants and laboratory analysis. We also thank Simon Giuliano, Gaëlle van Frank, and Antoine Parisot for their helpful discussions. We thank Michelle and Michael Corson for reviewing the English language.
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