Agroscope, Institute for Plant Production Sciences IPS, Switzerland

Weed suppression by cover crops: analyzing different factors

Cover crops represent an increasingly widespread agricultural technique in Switzerland as they provide different ecosystem services. One important role of cover crops is weed control, which can be explained by resource competition (for water, nutrients and light) and allelopathic effects (biochemical interactions between plants). To better understand the phenomenon of weed suppression by cover crops, we set up a field experiment that has allowed us to measure the effect of three cover crops on weed growth, particularly amaranth. In addition, we tried to understand the role of different weed growth suppression factors by using a new experimental approach. It allowed us to study separately the factor of light competition by the plant cover and the allelopathic root interactions between the cover crops and the amaranth plants. In this first year of the trial, light competition could be strongly reduced, but root interactions in the field could not be prevented completely due to methodological reasons. The intermediate results have demonstrated clearly the important role of light competition for weed control in the field. The role of allelopathy in weed suppression by cover crops remains to be identified.

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