Crop cover is more important than rotational diversity for soil multifunctionality and cereal yields in European cropping systems

Gina Garland, Anna Edlinger, Samiran Banerjee, Florine Degrune, Pablo García-Palacios, David S. Pescador, Chantal Herzog, Sana Romdhane, Aurélien Saghai, Ayme Spor, Cameron Wagg, Sara Hallin, Fernando T. Maestre, Laurent Philippot, Matthias C. Rillig, Marcel G.A. van der Heijden*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

122 Scopus citations

Abstract

In natural ecosystems, positive effects of plant diversity on ecosystem functioning have been widely observed, yet whether this is true in cropping systems remains unclear. Here we assessed the impact of crop diversification on soil microbial diversity, soil multifunctionality (SMF) and crop yields in 155 cereal fields across a 3,000 km north–south European gradient. Overall, crop diversity showed a relatively minor effect on soil microbial diversity, SMF and yields. In contrast, the proportion of time with crop cover (including cash crops, cover crops or forage leys) during the past ten-year crop rotation had a much stronger impact. This suggests that increasing crop cover can enhance both yields and soil functioning, while also providing habitat for soil microorganisms. We found that SMF did not positively contribute to crop yields, highlighting that care must be taken to balance the provision of food with environmentally beneficial functions and services, since they do not always go hand in hand.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)28-37
Number of pages10
JournalNature Food
Volume2
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Agronomy and Crop Science

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