BBSRC are funding 2 new-investigator project researching the benefits of cover crops. The investigators from both projects (DIVERSE – DIVerse crop residues Engender Resilience of Soil functions and Ecosystem services led by Dr Tom Sizmur, Reading University and `Using roots to bio-engineer soil` led by Dr Sarah De Baets, Cranfield University) are disseminating their first project results on the benefits of using cover crops for improving soil health.
Dr Sarah De Baets and Dr Csilla Hudek are the main researchers working on a BBSRC funded project entitled `Using roots to bio-engineer soil`. The main aim of this study is to develop a method to select and combine cover crops with complimentary root traits that benefit multiple soil ecosystem services. To develop this model, the root systems of 7 common cover crops are screened and a DNA technique, qPCR, is used to determine the proportions of root biomass of each species within a plant community. Various soil properties, such as infiltration rate, erosion resistance, penetrative resistance, soil porosity and available soil nutrients are also determined and linked to the plant root properties to then build a model that combines species so that soil resource losses are prevented and crop growth conditions are improved.