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 Tom Sizmur and Dr Xin Shu are the main researchers working on a BBSRC funded project entitled “DIVerse crop residues Engender Resilience of Soil functions and Ecosystem services”. The overarching aim of this project is to demonstrate that incorporating a mixture of biochemically diverse crop residues in the form of cover crop green manure mixtures changes the structure of the soil microbial community, and that this altered microbial community can enhance soil resistance and resilience to environmental disturbances which can benefit soil sustainability and crop yield.
This project will track the fate of carbon (C) applied to soils as unary, binary, tertiary and quaternary mixtures of contrasting cover crop residues using by labelling them with 13C isotope and determining which members of the soil microbial community incorporate them into their biomass. Other pot and field experiments will investigate whether increasing the diversity of cover crop residues incorporated into soils improves the potential of soil functions (e.g. respiration) to combat environmental disturbances (e.g. flooding and drought) and increases the delivery of beneficial ecosystem services (crop yield and nutrient use efficiency).