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Wittwer, Raphaël A.
van der Heijden, Marcel G.A.
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Rights / licenseCreative Commons Attribution 4.0 International
A major challenge for agriculture is to enhance productivity with minimum impact on the environment. Several studies indicate that cover crops could replace anthropogenic inputs and enhance crop productivity. However, so far, it is unclear if cover crop effects vary between different cropping systems, and direct comparisons among major arable production systems are rare. Here we compared the short-term effects of various cover crops on crop yield, nitrogen uptake, and weed infestation in four arable production systems (conventional cropping with intensive tillage and no-tillage; organic cropping with intensive tillage and reduced tillage). We hypothesized that cover cropping effects increase with decreasing management intensity. Our study demonstrated that cover crop effects on crop yield were highest in the organic system with reduced tillage (+24%), intermediate in the organic system with tillage (+13%) and in the conventional system with no tillage (+8%) and lowest in the conventional system with tillage (+2%). Our results indicate that cover crops are essential to maintaining a certain yield level when soil tillage intensity is reduced (e.g. under conservation agriculture), or when production is converted to organic agriculture. Thus, the inclusion of cover crops provides additional opportunities to increase the yield of lower intensity production systems and contribute to ecological intensification Show more
Journal / seriesScientific Reports
Pages / Article No.
PublisherNature Publishing Group
SubjectEcosystem services; Agroecology
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