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Ciaccia C.,Centro per lo studio delle relazioni tra pianta e suolo CREA RPS | Kristensen H.L.,University of Aarhus | Campanelli G.,Consiglio per la ricerca in agricoltura e lanalisi delleconomia agraria | Xie Y.,University of Aarhus | And 3 more authors.
Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems | Year: 2016

The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of growing in-season agro-ecological service crops as living mulch (LM) with vegetable crops, exploiting their potential to suppress weeds by filling the ecological niches otherwise occupied by weeds. Two field experiments were carried out in Denmark and Italy to compare different LM introduction strategies in organic vegetable cropping systems. In Denmark, leek (Allium porrum L.) was grown with dyers woad (Isatis tinctoria L.) LM strips, while cauliflower (Brassica oleracea L. var. botrytis) was intercropped with a broad sowed burr medic (Medicago polimorpha L., var. anglona) in Italy. Two LM times of sowing relative to cash crop transplanting––an early sowing (es LM) and a late sowing (ls LM)––were compared with a control with no LM (no LM). The effects of LM treatment on crop competitiveness, LM smother effect and weed populations were evaluated by direct measurement, visual estimation and competitive index methods. Comparison among hybrid and open pollinated cultivar responses to LM introduction was also performed. Results showed a significant higher cash crop biomass in ls LM than in es LM, with comparable yield to the weeded controls, except for es LM in Italy. Moreover, in the Danish experiment, the LM and weed biomasses were up to 5 times lower in the es LM and ls LM treatments than the weed biomass alone in no LM treatment. Reduction in weed biomass and abundance was observed also in ls LM in the Italian trial. Similarly, the competitive balance (Cb), which quantifies the ability of the cash crop to compete with neighbours, was higher in the es LM (+0.29) and ls LM (+0.72) compared with unweeded no LM control (−0.86) in Denmark. In the Italian experiment, the cauliflower showed more competitive ability against neighbours in ls LM (+0.53) and was a weak competitor in es LM (−1.51). The cash crop had higher competitive ability against LM (Cbc-lm) when sowing was more delayed in both experiments, while, in the Italian trial, the LM was more competitive against weeds (Cblm-w) in ls LM (+1.54) than in es LM (−0.41). The slight differences observed for biomass and competitive ability between the tested cultivars, highlighted similar suitability of both hybrid and open-pollinated cultivars to grow with LM. Our findings suggest the viability of the introduced LM in managing weeds and avoiding a smother effect on the crop, with particular effectiveness with delayed LM sowing. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2016


Testani E.,Centro per lo studio delle relazioni tra pianta e suolo CREA RPS | Campanelli G.,Consiglio per la ricerca in agricoltura e lanalisi delleconomia agraria | Leteo F.,Consiglio per la ricerca in agricoltura e lanalisi delleconomia agraria | Ciaccia C.,Centro per lo studio delle relazioni tra pianta e suolo CREA RPS | And 2 more authors.
Compost Science and Utilization | Year: 2016

In the past decade, the increasing environmental concerns regarding the use of non-renewable resources, such as peat, for growing media production has led to a search for alternative materials as substrate components. Until now, compost represents the most investigated one. Despite the critical aspects related to compost use (i.e., its high pH, salinity, and potential content of toxic elements), partial peat substitution with this material represents an achievable objective. In this study, green compost was evaluated as a component of peat substrates for organic sweet pepper (Capsicum annuum L.) seedling production. Three compost rates (CR) were compared: 0 (peat without compost), 30, and 60% of compost v/v. Two pepper cultivars, one derived from a local (medium-Adriatic) germplasm (L) and a commercial hybrid (H), were tested. Furthermore, organic fertilizers based on hydrolyzed proteins, of animal (A) and vegetal (V) origin, were compared. Substrates were analyzed for characterization (pH, EC, nutrient contents, heavy metals). Seedling performances were evaluated in terms of size, biomass, nutrient uptake, and toxic element contents. Indices able to assess seedling resistance to transplant stress were also calculated. Results showed that CR60 treatment was able to produce seedlings with the same biomass of control. CR30, instead, assured the same chance to resist the transplanting stress of CR0. The performances of fertilizer A were significantly higher than those of fertilizer V. Local germplasm (L) showed the highest resistance to transplant stress, while H was more performing in nitrogen uptake. The risk of seedling contamination by toxic elements resulted negligible. © 2016 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC

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