Cover crops-steered microbiome to promote suppression of soil-borne pathogens

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterAcademic


Conventional food production is often accompanied by elevated nutrient inputs, intense pesticide applications and frequent tillage. The negative environmental implications of these practices include soil erosion and biodiversity loss. A number of promising systems are being developed to make agricultural production sustainable. Among these, cover cropping is a green and cost-efficient practice that can contribute to this goal. Cover crops are non-economic crops grown between cropping seasons to improve soil nutritional status, soil fertility and structure. Cover crops also have the potential to improve soil health by boosting microbial life.
This project is based on the hypothesis that combinations of cover crops species can promote diversity and activity of plant-beneficial soil microorganisms while deterring plant pathogens.
Therefore, we first compare the effect of individual cover crops species to that of mixtures on the soil microbiome. Furthermore, we aim to pinpoint cover crop-associated microbiomes which increase soil resilience to soil-borne pathogens.
Cover crop-associated resident (total, not necessarily active) and active fractions of microbial and metazoan communities are investigated by amplicon-based metagenomic sequencing of ribosomal DNA and RNA. Data are retrieved from a combination of field trials featuring different soil management (organic vs conventional) and controlled greenhouse experiments to allow ecologically valid results.
This 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.


ConferenceLXIII SIGA annual congress – (Italian Society of Agricultural Genetics) 2019


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