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The Potential of Multi-Species Mixtures to Diversify Cover Crop Benefits

Department of Plant Agriculture, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario N1G 2W1, Canada
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Sustainability 2020, 12(5), 2058; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12052058
Received: 22 January 2020 / Revised: 28 February 2020 / Accepted: 3 March 2020 / Published: 7 March 2020
(This article belongs to the Section Sustainable Agriculture)
Cover crops provide a range of well-documented benefits to growers and the environment. However, no single species can deliver all of these benefits, and hence planting mixtures is gaining increasing attention. To the best of our knowledge, there is no comprehensive review on different multi-mix strategies. This article reviews available studies on multi-mixes, focusing on temperate North America, and discusses objective criteria for selecting components of a multi-mix and what future research is needed. Very few peer-reviewed studies on multi-mixes are currently available; a diversity of species compositions is being tested with a wide range of potential benefits but also with various limitations. Selection of species in multi-mixes is based on different criteria that help improve multiple ecosystem services. An emerging concept is the importance of selecting cover crop species with functional complementarity rather than simply increasing the number of species. Based on this concept, objective criteria have been developed to select the species for a multi-mix: grower objectives/primary purpose of planting the cover crop, crop rotation and cropping system compatibility, above and belowground compatibility, complementarity of different ecosystem functions, compatibility with the growing environment, duration for cover crop growth, termination option(s) available, input/labour costs, planting equipment required, persistence/weediness, and potential net economic returns. We propose a step-wise procedure to develop effective multi-species mixtures. The number of species and their ratio in the mixtures will depend on objective criteria, and hence long-term research is required to assess different species compositions and their impacts. View Full-Text
Keywords: cover crop; sole cover; multi-species mix; crop rotation; cropping system; complementary mixture; ecosystem functions; soil health cover crop; sole cover; multi-species mix; crop rotation; cropping system; complementary mixture; ecosystem functions; soil health
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MDPI and ACS Style

Chapagain, T.; Lee, E.A.; Raizada, M.N. The Potential of Multi-Species Mixtures to Diversify Cover Crop Benefits. Sustainability 2020, 12, 2058. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12052058

AMA Style

Chapagain T, Lee EA, Raizada MN. The Potential of Multi-Species Mixtures to Diversify Cover Crop Benefits. Sustainability. 2020; 12(5):2058. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12052058

Chicago/Turabian Style

Chapagain, Tejendra, Elizabeth A. Lee, and Manish N. Raizada. 2020. "The Potential of Multi-Species Mixtures to Diversify Cover Crop Benefits" Sustainability 12, no. 5: 2058. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12052058

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