Characteristics of various catch crops in the organic vegetable production in northern climate conditions : results from and on-farm study

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Title: Characteristics of various catch crops in the organic vegetable production in northern climate conditions : results from and on-farm study
Author: Iivonen, Sari; Kivijärvi, Pirjo; Suojala-Ahlfors, Terhi
Publisher: University of Helsinki Ruralia Institute
Date: 2017
Language: en
Belongs to series: Reports 165
ISBN: 978-951-51-0443-4
ISSN: 1796-0630
Abstract: Catch crops are generally grown during the period between two main crops to prevent nutrient leaching and thus reduce nutrient losses from the system. Catch crops in Finnish organic vegetable farms are sown after the incorporation of green manure crop to the soil or after the harvesting of vegetable crops with early harvesting times. Knowledge on the ability of various catch crops in preventing nutrient leaching in vegetable farms located in northern latitudes is still scarce. We also have very limited knowledge of the effect of catch crops on the yield of the succeeding vegetable crop. The aim of our on-farm study was to investigate the ability of contrasting catch crops, i.e. Italian ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum), phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia), white mustard (Sinapis alba) and radish (Raphanus sativus) in producing above-ground biomass, collecting nutrients and preventing leaching after broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. italica L.) harvesting in a commercial organic vegetable farm. Our second aim was to study the effects of various catch crops on the yield and nutrient status of a succeeding organic carrot (Daucus carota subsp. sativus L.) crop. Our results show differing capabilities of various catch crop species in producing above-ground biomass and preventing nitrogen leaching. White mustard reached the highest aboveground dry matter yield, 1416 kg/ha, which was higher than that of Italian ryegrass, phacelia and radish. The dry mass of phacelia (933 kg/ha) was also clearly higher than that of Italian ryegrass and radish, which yielded only 291 kg/ha and 277 kg/ha, respectively. Mustard, phacelia and Italian ryegrass could prevent autumnal nitrogen leaching by 40–49 kg/ha. The weak performance of the radish catch crop after broccoli cultivation was an unexpected phenomenon. This experiment should be repeated to confirm the suppressive effect of broccoli on radish growth. The catch crop effect on the succeeding organic carrot crop was most negative for Italian ryegrass, and varied from negative (phacelia) to neutral (mustard) for the other tested catch crop species. Our study suggests that the utilization of efficient catch crops during crop rotation prevents soluble nutrient leaching from the organic field, but may have negative impacts on the productivity of succeeding vegetable crops.

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