PPS Groenbemesters – Topsector TU and AF project
Groenbemesters in de praktijk - Cover crops in practice: a step towards diversification of plant production systems
This project aims to use cover crops, or green manures, to stimulate the natural antagonists present in the soil and thereby make the soil more resilient and more biodiverse.
Cover crops, or green manures, are non-economic crops grown between cropping seasons to protect bare soil. These are usually grown because of their beneficial contribution to soil health, soil nutritional status, fertility and soil structure. Moreover, several cover crops species were found to reduce pathogenic soil-borne fungi and nematodes populations in agricultural fields.
For these reasons, cover cropping is a promising practice to be implemented to help the transition to a nature-friendly agricultural production system.
However, the effect of cover crop species on different soil-borne pathogens is not consistent, which hinders cover cropping establishment as a common agricultural practice. The aim of this project is, therefore, to pinpoint the right cover crop species or cover crop species mixture which suppress the most relevant soil-borne pathogens in Dutch arable farming and horticulture.
We investigate the unexploited potential of cover crops in stirring the beneficial and disease-inhibiting soil biota and we aim to pinpoint cover crop-associated microbiomes which increase soil suppressiveness to soil-borne pathogens.
Cover crop-associated resident (total, not necessarily active) and active fractions of microbial and metazoan communities are investigated for both DNA and RNA (cDNA) by state-of-the-art high-throughput techniques. Moreover, we aim to optimise a molecular platform to quantify soil-borne pathogens.
Data are retrieved from a combination of field trials featuring different soil management (organic vs conventional) and controlled greenhouse experiments for three consecutive years to allow ecologically valid and reproducible results.
The Topsector PPS Groenbemesters project is supported by the Dutch government and sponsored by end users and cover-crop breeders. At completion, this project will provide them information allowing optimal use of cover crops, in line with the EU requirements for reduced reliance on chemical inputs.