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Cover crops needed to maximise benefits of no-till

Soil structure in no-till systems can be significantly improved with the introduction of cover crops, according to a new study.

Studies at the University of Gloucestershire’s Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI) have found that soil in no-till systems can often have a poorer structure than in conventional systems, resulting in decreased water infiltration rates and lower hydraulic conductivity.


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Growing certain cover crops enhanced the performance of no-till systems by protecting the soil surface from erosion, mitigating compaction and suppressing weeds. Nitrogen leaching was only reduced in no-till systems when combined with a cover crop.

However, root and canopy characteristics of the cover crop being grown were crucial.

Kamilla Skaalsveen, who is leading the study, says: “When establishing a cover crop the farmer should think about the challenges and needs of that particular soil. Thick rooted cover crops that are beneficial to soil structural remediation can cause negative effects in soils that are sensitive to erosion, so they should be considered carefully before implementation.”

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