Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Cover crop for increasing soil fertility and diversification of cropping system in West Balkan Countries

Posted by | February 21, 2021

Principal investigators: Branko Cupina, Djordje Krstic, Svetlana Vujic, University of Novi Sad, Faculty of Agriculture, Serbia

Associated with: Institute of Field and Vegetable Crops

Project summary:

The project includes two important issues in agricultural practice in West Balkan Countries (WBC) – a decrease of soil organic matter and use of cover crops in crop rotation. The majority of cover crops are considered to be forages. In WBC portion of forage crops is up to 15% of the total crop production as a result of decline livestock production. However, in addition to being a source of animal feed, forage crops can serve as cover crops and play an important role in the crop rotation, increasing the content of organic matter and reducing the use of mechanization, fertilizers and pesticides, thereby affecting the preservation of natural resources. A nitrogen source in crop production might be the mineral nitrogen fertilizers and legumes or legume-based mixtures. The use of mineral fertilizers significantly increases production costs and at the same time leads to potential environmental problems. Legume cover crops have the ability to provide significant amounts of nitrogen as a result of their symbiosis with Rhizobium. By introducing the mixture of legumes and cereals in crop rotation there is diverse positive effects which can be obtained, such as increase of nitrogen, organic matter, soil biological activity and structure, reduction of greenhouse effect, reduced erosion, increased biodiversity etc.
The aim of the project is to determine to which extent proportion of cover crops in the crop rotation can improve soil properties and the sustainability of agricultural production in general. By intensive inclusion of cover crops in crop rotation influences the project aims: to increase the soil nitrogen content that will be able to use by subsequent main crop and thus reduce the use of mineral fertilizers, reduced use of pesticides by controlling weeds, increasing crop diversity, increasing organic matter in the soil, rational use of land and natural resource as well as a positive economic balance. The project involves setting up of field trials with the legumes and mixture of legumes and cereals as winter cover crops which will be partly used as green manure and partly as forage, after which cash crops will be sown – maize, soybean and Sudangrass. The trials will also include the application of mineral nitrogen fertilizers as a regular measure in the field crops production. Parameters to be evaluated are: organic matter content, soil nitrogen and moisture content, C/N ratio, nitrogen budget, dry matter yield of cover crops and cash crops, quality parameters of the cash crops.