Cover Crops: Achievement of Sustainability in the Ecological Systems of Agriculture

Cover Crops: Achievement of Sustainability in the Ecological Systems of Agriculture

Vladan Ugrenović (Institute “Tamiš” Pančevo, Serbia) and Vladimir Filipović (Institute for Medicinal Plants Research “Dr Josif Pančić”, Serbia)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 25
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2075-7.ch009
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Abstract

The use of cover crops is widespread practice in organic farming systems. Cover crops can be defined as crops that are usually not grown commercially, and can have a multiple role in crop rotations. The benefit of cover crops has been known since long. Legumes are used as biological fixer of nitrogen for the next crop, and are established during periods when the soil is without major crops in order to reduce erosion. In recent years, the role of cover crops has been extended to the biocontrol of weeds, pests and diseases, as well as to the overall improvement of soil quality by increasing organic matter, encouraging the circulation of nutrients and reducing soil compaction. At the same time, their use tends to reduce costs and even create new sources of income on the farm.
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Soil Erosion Control

Throughout the year, agricultural areas in Serbia are affected by wind and water erosion (Ličina et al., 2011). The highest intensity of wind erosion in the northern and northeastern regions is during autumn, winter and spring, whereas the effects of water erosion are the greatest on slopes and along rivers (Djukić & Petković, 2009). Establishing cover crops with high biomass production can effectively protect soil against erosion, especially in the part of the season when the soil is bare. Plant cover crops splice soil particles with their roots, while the above-ground biomass prevents prevents fine particles of soil surface from being flushed away by water or carried off by wind. Dense perennial crops improve the retention and absorption of water by the soil, and reduce runoff, whereas the above-ground parts of the plants reduce the impact of raindrops (Parlak & Ozaslan Parlak, 2010). After the destruction of the cover crops, the dry above-ground biomass forms mulch on the soil surface, which also provides the protection against soil erosion (Zdravković et al., 2012). Grasses and grass mixtures provide the best protection against erosion, and winter grains or winter brassicas are suitable for covering the soil during the winter (Kruidhof et al., 2008).

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