Over winter cover crops provide yield benefits for spring barley and maintain soil health in northern Europe

Jonathan Holland, Jennifer L Brown, Katrin M. MacKenzie, Roy Neilson, Simone Piras, Blair McKenzie (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

A three-year field experiment investigated the potential yield benefits and soil effects from over winter cover crops in Scotland, U.K. Brassica composition of cover crops significantly increased the grain yield and grain nitrogen (N) concentration of the following spring barley crop. The increased yield with cover crops was outweighed by increased costs and thus without subsidy (Ecological Focus Area) payments there was decreased profitability for the following spring barley crop. Cover crop effects were mostly neutral on soil properties, but surface shear strength was significantly lower than in the stubble control. This indicates that even direct drilling of cover crops will loosen the surface soil. Cover crops varied in their effect on slug populations but in all cases slug numbers were below treatment thresholds. No cover crop effects were detected for total nematode and earthworm abundance or the total soil organic carbon concentration. This study indicates that cover crops can improve cereal production in a region with a short growing season with no negative impact on soil health or the agronomic sustainability.

Original languageEnglish
Article number126363
Number of pages7
Journal European Journal of Agronomy
Volume130
Early online date24 Jul 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Jul 2021

Keywords

  • Profitability
  • Soil fauna
  • Soil management
  • Spring barley
  • Subsidy payments

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