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Oilseed radish/black oat subsidiary crops can help regulate plant-parasitic nematodes under non-inversion tillage in an organic wheat-potato rotation

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Soil conservation is one of the major challenges for agriculture in the 21st century. For this reason, non-inversion tillage systems including subsidiary crops have become popular over the last three decades in Europe. However, the adoption of new agricultural practices may change the diversity and abundance of certain pests and diseases. For example, plant-parasitic nematodes that are major threats towards cultivated plants may be promoted if good hosts, such as certain subsidiary crops and weeds, occur more frequently. The indigenous plant-parasitic nematode fauna under organic farming systems is already adapted to diverse crop rotations and usually dominated by nematodes with broad host ranges. These may be further enhanced in organic farming systems if non-inversion tillage is introduced, which generally increases the abundance and biomass of certain weeds. We evaluated the early effects of non-inversion tillage and subsidiary crops in an organic wheat-potato rotation on plant-parasitic nematodes in two field experiments in two successive years. The total densities of plant-parasitic nematodes increased from an initial 1260 nematodes (100 ml soil)−1 at the start of the experiment to 1850 and 1700 nematodes (100 ml soil)−1 after wheat under non-inversion and conventional tillage, respectively. Plant-parasitic nematode densities then decreased on average to 1100 and 560 nematodes (100 ml soil)−1 after subsidiary crops and potatoes, respectively. Parasitic nematode densities tended to be higher under non-inversion than conventional tillage, except where oilseed radish and black oats had been used as cover crops. For the latter, no differences between tillage treatments occurred. In the second experiment, about 1700 free-living nematodes (100 ml soil)−1 were found under conventional tillage without mulch while under reduced tillage with mulch their numbers were significantly higher at 3100 nematodes (100 ml soil)−1. We conclude that an appropriate choice of subsidiary crops can be an important management factor for the long term sustainability of non-inversion tillage systems.

Affiliations: 1: 1University of Kassel, Organic Agricultural Sciences, Nordbahnhofstraße 1a, 37213 Kassel, Germany ; 2: 2Julius Kühn-Institut, Federal Research Centre for Cultivated Plants, Institute for Epidemiology and Pathogen Diagnostics, Toppheideweg 88, 48161 Münster, Germany

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