Management of cropping systems and soil fertility, quality of agricultural products and agricultural by-product recovery


Self-reseeding annual legumes and their use as key component of sustainability of Mediterranean organic cropping systems

 Background

This research activity is oriented to the development of  cropping strategies for a sound agricultural production that preserves the quality of the environment and of its resources (soil).  In compliance with this approach, much has been made to reduce inputs in the agricultural systems through a better use of native resources such as atmospheric nitrogen. 

Altogether research activities  regarded:

·        A comparison of 15 Australian self-reseeding legume cultivars included in a three-year rotation programme and the study of their effect on the performance of the subsequent crops (lettuce, maize and wheat)  and on the soil fertility.

Later, through a survey at ICARDA, where research activities are carried out  on the legume ecophysiology and breeding, it was possible to compare 7 self-reseeding legume accessions of Mediterranean origin, included in a two-year rotation programme, and to study their residual effects on the performance of vegetables (zucchini and lettuce).

Timing:
Starting: 2.01.2002
Scheduled ending: 31.12.2007
Real ending: 25.06.2019
Objectives:

    Objectives

·        Studying the agronomic traits of self-reseeding legume species from the Mediterranean area, reproduced in  Australiaand reintroduced in Puglia, so as to evaluate their adaptability to the soil and climatic conditions and to select the best ones to be included in a rotation programme under organic agriculture.

·        Quantifying their biological nitrogen-fixation potential in the field via the isotopic dilution method and evaluating the effects of green manuring on the soil and on crops in the rotation programmes under Mediterranean conditions. 

Justification:

    Justification

Regulations on organic agriculture are very clear as to soil fertility management. Emphasis is laid on the use of on-farm resources, on limited application of organic fertilisers and on the cultivation of legumes and green manuring. Thus, it is expedient to develop strategies for the improvement of soil fertility through nitrogen fixation and green manuring.

Nitrogen-fixing legumes might supply the total amount of nitrogen needed by crops for their growth in a rotation programme. This is why they may be considered as a key component in the Mediterranean environment for their agronomic, economic and environmental contribution.
Potential:

     Potential

  • Identifying the best species to be used (green manuring, cover crop, etc.) in the Mediterranean soil and climatic conditions.
  • Setting up a database of annual legumes which might provide solutions of sustainability in support of the organic method.
  • Participating in international research scenarios.
  • Transfer of technological innovations and of good practices relating to the use of renewable resources in organic agriculture.  
Results:
Notes:

     Remarks

·                    Strengths

·        Applicability of results (optimum nitrogen amount for the subsequent crops, weed control, etc.) in the Mediterranean environment both in low-energy input cropping systems, alternative to conventional methods, and in the organic cropping systems, thereby increasing the exploitation of native resources.

·        Possible exploitation of their agroecological potential in rural development plans in marginal and less fertile areas for the control of soil erosion, degradation of organic matter and reduced nitrates leaching, optimization of water resources.

·                    Weaknesses

·  A supply chain for the seeds of self-reseeding legumes is not available in the Mediterranean area.

·  Most of the varieties on the market are of Australian origin and they do not always fit  the soil and climatic conditions of the Mediterranean area.

·  A standard protocol for the determination of legumes’ nitrogen fixation in the field  through the isotope 15N dilution technique and a mass spectrophotometer are not available.

·   The socio-economic and environmental evaluation of symbiotic nitrogen fixation has never been made. 

Reference person/s: Al Bitar Lina / Driouech Noureddin /
Collaborators:
Thesis:
Institutions involved:
 
 
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