Crop Scientist, postdoctoral researcher Lizarazo Clara

175400 €

Break the mold in agriculture: using ’crop wild relatives’ as cover crops to increase biodiversity and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in cropping systems

Tieteellinen tutkimus / siihen pohjautuva työ | Nelivuotinen

Cover crops are cultivated to increase the ground cover in agricultural landscapes during the off-season and for the wide range of ecosystem-services, they provide. Cover crops serve to prevent nutrient losses (i.e. nitrogen leaching), improve soil structure and have an overall positive impact in mitigating the net greenhouse gas balance of the cropping system. However, due to management challenges (identifying the right crop species and times of sowing), cover crops are still largely under-utilized in most of the world. Another group of under-utilized plants are those known as ‘crop wild relatives’ (CWR), which are an important source of genetic diversity, and whose conservation is essential for supporting future food security and adaptation of agriculture to climate change. Conservation schemes for CWR are done within and outside protected conservation areas, such conservation efforts still lack a practical approach and do not promote their utilization in cropping systems. This project aims to identify CWR suitable for use as cover crops for cereals. Promoting the use of CWR plants as cover crops in agricultural landscapes has several benefits: helps in the conservation of CWR by expanding their area, increases biodiversity in typically oversimplified agricultural landscapes and reduces net greenhouse gas emissions. The project will result in the identification of most feasible and sustainable cover crop + cereal combinations, by assessing their overall greenhouse gas emissions and fitness of the cropping system (crop health and soil health). The long-term impact of the project is to contribute in the transition from conventional agriculture to conservation agriculture.