Cover crops and below-ground biodiversity: an ecological outlook

Fioratti, Marco (2022) Cover crops and below-ground biodiversity: an ecological outlook. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Cover crops have been known to humans for millennia, but their benefits in modern agriculture are the object of an ongoing debate. Their effects on the below-ground trophic chain, which is capable of providing, catalysing or regulating all ecosystem services in arable land, have not been thoroughly characterised yet, as shown by a thorough meta-analysis. The present work has the ambition to provide insights on how cover crops shape below-ground communities, with a particular focus on neglected mesofaunal clades, and how the interaction of crop cover, agricultural operations and feedback effects of soil fauna can alter N cycling across the soil profile through the growing season.

Quantification of the magnitude and the duration of the shift induced by cover cropping in below-ground communities was carried out by extensive sampling of invertebrate and microbial communities in several field-scale trial sites under factorial management. Innovative sampling techniques were developed and tested to better characterise below-ground fauna. Community shifts were linked to variation in soil chemical parameters, with a particular focus on N-species dynamics. Targeted experiments in controlled conditions were devised to decouple the effects of crop residue addition and decay from those originating from cultivation and to isolate the impact of soil fauna on N-cycling, microbial community structure and crop growth.

Finally, findings stemming from meta-analytical review and experimental work were used as a basis to formulate a coherent model linking production and environmental function and drawing predictions about de-intensification in a global perspective.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Science > School of Biological Sciences
Depositing User: Chris White
Date Deposited: 14 Sep 2022 14:37
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2023 01:38


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