MycorrhizaThe SoilCare team from University of Hohenheim, Germany, has just published a meta-analysis of published field studies on cover crops and phosphorus cycling in the prestigious "Marschner Review" series.

Phosphorus (P) is often a limiting nutrient in agriculture and the use of P fertilisers can have negative impacts on the environment. There is increasing interest in the use of cover crops for the sustainable intensification of agriculture, however, their interactions with the soil microbial community, which is a key driver of P cycling, and their effects on the following crop, have not yet been systematically assessed.

The study found that decomposition dynamics, governed by P concentrations, are critical for the transfer of P from cover crop residues to the main crop. Also cover crops may enhance the soil microbial community by providing a legacy of increased mycorrhizal abundance, microbial biomass P, and phosphatase activity. Cover crops are generally most effective in systems low in available P, and may access 'unavailable' P pools. However, their effects on P availability are difficult to detect by standard soil P tests, except for increases after the use of Lupinus sp. Agricultural management (i.e. cover crop species selection, tillage, fertilization) can improve cover crop effects. They concluded that cover cropping has the potential to tighten nutrient cycling in agricultural systems under different conditions, increasing crop P nutrition and yield.

Hallama, M., Pekrun, C., Lambers, H., Kandeler, E. (2019) Hidden miners – the roles of cover crops and soil microorganisms in phosphorus cycling through agroecosystems, Plant Soil 434: 7.

For more information about the paper, please contact Moritz Hallama This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.