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Cover crops

Cover crops are an essential tool for maintaining and developing adaptable and sustainable agricultural production. The team aims to be a forum for the development of optimal selection and use of cover crops under current and future growth conditions for conventional as well as organic management regimes.

Of particular interest to the team are the effects of cover crops on nitrate leaching, biomass production, nutrient management, carbon sequestration, emission of nitrous oxide, and on primary crop growth.  Our cover crop projects test and develop new plant species and management regimes. We investigate crop establishment, the effects of different cultivars, the impacts of mixtures with and without nitrogen-fixing species, and the duration of cover crop growth.

The research is carried out at the field as well as the laboratory scales. For example, nitrate leaching is measured in full-scale field experiments using ceramic suction cups, and also in lysimeter facilities where leached water is collected for analysis.  In addition, nitrate concentrations in soil samples are determined after sampling the soil profile at well-defined depths. Biomass production is determined by plant sampling and its turnover determined in incubation studies. Finally, nitrous oxide emission is determined in the field by closed chamber techniques.