Case Study 7. Cover crop mixtures: a promotor of soil biodiversity in potato crops? Atlantic Central (Belgium)
Which problem will be solved: Organic farmers heavily rely on an active and diverse soil biology to make their system work. The soil biology needs to be able to digest diverse types of organic material to provide sufficient and timely nutrients for the crops, soilborne diseases need to be limited by the suppressiveness of the soil… The use of diverse cover crop mixtures can contribute to lift the soil biology to the next level.
State of the art: Advisors often say to organic farmers to plant diverse cover crop mixtures to stimulate the soil diversity. However, little is known about the actual impact of the use of such cover crop mixtures on the soil diversity, nor in the short or longer term. Many other questions remain unanswered: how many species should a cover crop mixture contain to optimize the soil diversity and its ecosystem services? Which associations are best? Which after potatos?
Objective: The objective is to test the potential beneficial impact of different cover crop mixtures on soil biological diversity and ecosystem services. From these trails, farmers will be able to improve the design of their cover crop mixtures.
Proposed management practices: Monoculture cover crops will be compared to dual species mixtures and multispecies mixtures for their impact on soil diversity, weed suppression, N mineralization, organic carbon increase and yield in the following crop. We would like to organize a parallel trial at different farms.
Progress with the case study in relation with the state of the art: Increased understanding on the impact of different cover crop mixtures on soil biology and ecosystem services together with increased knowledge to improve the design of cover crop mixtures